An unusual pilot project in etiquette classes for Grade 6 students at Armour Heights Public School wins praise from students, parents
They practise keeping their young elbows off the table by squeezing a book under each arm as they eat.
They learn not to scoop food with their fork — who knew? — but use their knife to push food into place.
As part of an unusual crash course in etiquette, Grade 6 students at Toronto’s Armour Heights Public School also have learned that a good, honest handshake — No “dead fish!” — pumps three times, no more.
But in today’s rushed, digital world, good manners go beyond “pinkies up” protocol to include lessons for respectful face-to-face behavior, from cellphone courtesy to the art of interrupting . . . politely.
“We learned that when you’re talking to someone face-to-face, they should be the most important person at that moment so you shouldn’t answer your cellphone unless it’s really important,” said Naomi Rozmetova, 11, one of about 30 students who took six half-day lessons in manners from image and etiquette consultant Joanna Parris as part of Ontario’s character education curriculum.
A sort of Miss Manners for the pre-teen set, the classes wrapped up Wednesday with a review of social skills — make eye contact and wait patiently when you want to interrupt — and a catered lunch with tablecloth and proper place settings.
“We may be a casual society, but we’re still a polite society, and in today’s job market where so many highly skilled people compete, it’s often the person who makes eye contact and smiles and doesn’t take a phone call during the interview or plunk their purse on the interviewer’s desk, who gets the job,” said Parris, who runs a company called BOSS Inc.
Teacher Paul Offor decided to bring in the manners guru “to help kids with social navigation. They’re not horrible slobs, but we all need to be taught these things and adults don’t always think to communicate them. I’m hearing a lot more ‘Excuse me’s’ already.”
At 12, Kolin McCullam said he now knows to “introduce your friend to an elder, like ‘Mom, this is my friend from school’ — not the other way round. It shows respect.”
Offor proposed the pilot project after meeting Parris, a consultant who recently taught corporate manners to students at the University of Windsor law school. Parents at Armour Heights covered the $1,600 fee.
Principal Cate Spidle said she hopes to bring Parris back next year for a shorter period because she believes the focus on considering others — the basis of manners — is important for children in a largely affluent community who sometimes tend to have things done for them.
“We’re trying to bring them a broader scope of the world and a social justice outlook so they see they have the power to help others,” said Spidle, who said “it’s often not what you do in life that people remember, but how you do it.”
Parent Michaela Hutchison noted, “Families these days are so busy, busy, busy, and kids are so inundated by social media that manners can get lost when people come face to face. But good manners are learned behavior. This is all about making them more conscious of respecting others.”
Seven of the most important phrases in life
I made a mistake and I’m sorry.
You did a good job.
What is your opinion?
How may I help you?
I appreciate you.
Source: Joanne Parris