Thursday, April 23, 2009

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax. ~Arthur Schopenhauer

If, in my fantastical possible future, Hoda Kotb, as she is interviewing me in part three of a four-part series on "Awesome Teachers, Awesome Moms," asks what is the one thing that makes my family successful, I would have to answer "love." the second? Manners.

The third? Hockey.

The irony is thick.

Manners are tough to teach. My 17-year-old daughter and I were watching "Gilmore Girls" when the Peanut brought her entire bucket of Lincoln Logs out to the living room and dumped the whole thing. She needed to start with a specific piece, so she tumbled and rumbled through the clanky logs. With the sigh only a teenaged girl or a saint stuck with arrows could make, the dvr was paused.

I gently asked the peanut to take the logs to another room, since we were watching TV. Because she is seven, she asked "why?" The teenager said "BECAUSE when YOU are watching tv, I DO NOT PLAY WITH NOISY TOYS."

The peanut looks over her glasses at her and says, "I'm not watching tv."

Apparently, sarcasm is not the best teaching tool for children in first grade.

As a teacher, I will admit that there are children who I know, in the depths of my soul, must have been raised by wolves. There is simply no other explanation.

They will interrupt without even blinking, no hesitation, any and all conversations. They will fart in the middle of class discussions. They will blurt out rude comments and come completely unhinged if someone even looks at them sideways. But, quite wonderfully, these children are not the norm. The majority of my students are as polite as ninth graders can be on a steady basis and contrite when they slip. We have had to have class discussions about manners (like how saying "no offense, but..." is NOT an ollie-ollie-all-come-free pass to then say something completely offensive) but what surprises me is how well they can do, how mature they can be, discussing man's inhumanity to man in one breath and calling the kid next to him "gay" in the next.

I guess it's all about the baby steps.

Thank you, Jen at Sprite's Keeper - this was an interesting topic!


Sprite's Keeper said...

Well, judging by my last weekend with the 22 year olds, I think your high schoolers are more mature! I think manners really depend on the family. If Mom and Dad practice manners, child will pick them up. Hopefully. We're still working on "Excuse me" when she toots. Great Spin! You're linked!

Ginger said...

I love the title of this post! And you are so right. Love first, then manners.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Do your students leave trash in the desks? Sometimes I ask my students if they leave trash on the floor of their friends' house when they visit.

My duaghter loves for me to watch Gilmore Girls with her.