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Keeping Courtesy Fresh: School Maintains and Updates Traditions
Posted By armin.sethna On February 2, 2012 @ 2:26 pm In School | No Comments
Manners and customs may change over time, but courtesy and consideration never go out of style. In 1932, Principia’s founder specifically identified “refined speech, . . . unobtrusive manners, unselfish consideration of others, and exquisite courtesy” among the unfolding character traits that the School expects to see in its students (Education at The Principia, p. 68). That same expectation exists today for students at all levels.
The recent series of “etiquette dinners” for Upper and Middle School students is just one piece in the wider mosaic of social graces that faculty, staff, and parents aim to develop and reinforce level by level, year by year. The senior speeches delivered in Ridgway are another element, epitomizing the skill of public speaking and the development of quiet confidence that are so valued in the working world. In a similar vein, seventh and eighth grade students have been honing their communication and listening skills by preparing and delivering speeches to peers and parents. Learning to pay attention to speakers for 30 to 40 minutes at a stretch without fidgeting and whispering isn’t easy, as most of these students would testify!
“We’d like our students to feel comfortable in any setting—from dinner with the president, to a business dinner, to the most informal social occasion,” Upper School Student Events Coordinator Connie Dennett notes. Events like the recent “Meal of Fortune”—a semi-formal dinner where juniors participated in a game-show style quiz on points of etiquette—provide a gentle reminder of the joy of “being considerate of others and not drawing attention to oneself in negative ways,” Dennett says.
Parents appear grateful for Principia’s help cultivating students’ poise and attentiveness. The mother of a senior, who has watched her sons and their friends sometimes grumble, but always grow, through these experiences, appreciates the opportunities they provide for “the expression of grace and composure and for giving. The kids panic at first, but they later realize these are great opportunities for getting to know people they may otherwise not have sought out.”
In fact, on a daily basis Principia’s classrooms, dorms, and athletic venues offer dozens of opportunities to practice consideration. In the younger classes, manners may often be a simple matter of remembering to say “please” and “thank you,” but they are grounded in the Golden Rule, which teachers in our Early Childhood program establish as the foundation for children’s interactions.
In Lower and Middle School, the increasing inclusion of project-based learning—where students work in pairs or small groups to obtain information and solve problems—requires young people to communicate and collaborate effectively and respectfully. Teachers regularly help students themselves identify and understand how too much chatter, arguing, or ignoring each other’s views can lead to complications or delays in their project work.
So, yes, by the time Principia students graduate, they know which fork to use when—or, if in doubt, to follow what the host and hostess do! But they also know that courtesy is not just an affect donned for special occasions but “the result of real love for others,” as the quote noted above goes on to explain.
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