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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Teaching Middle-Schoolers Etiquette

We have 12 days of school remaining, and it is always a challenge to keep middle school students focused on learning.  After all, these kids have grown up with "high-stakes" testing since they started school.  They have been led to believe that once that big test is over, the learning has ended.  I can't say I blame them for arriving at this conclusion.

I always say "everything that matters in life is a social studies issue."  That's why, along with the advice and support of my team of teachers, I decided to take the last, frequently interrupted, days of school to have our students learn simple social skills.

Here's what is planned:

  1. How to introduce yourself to adults (teachers).
  2. How to introduce your friends to teachers.
  3. Using body language to your advantage.
  4. Interacting with people who are in positions of authority.
There may be time for a few other things too.

Here's what I have noticed:

  1. My students want to know why this is important. - MY ANSWER: You may be able to do a job, you may be qualified, skilled, and capable - but if you lack these skills, you will not have an OPPORTUNITY to prove your value.  On a more immediately relevant issue, your future teachers will judge you based on the way you carry yourself. Learn these skills, and you will have teachers on your side much quicker than if you don't use these skills to your advantage.
  2. My students "rebel" at practicing the "speech" - until they start saying it and finding that they can master these skills rather quickly.  In class, we rotate around the room and practice.  "Excuse me.  Hello, Mr. Murry.  My name is _______.  I have heard good things about you from other students, and I wanted to meet you personally.  Thank you for allowing me to say hello.  I hope you have a terrific day."  I started walking down the halls with my students, and asking other teachers if a student could introduce himself.  Teachers are loving it.  My kids are seeing immediate feedback in the form of a smiling teacher who tells them how impressed they are when they hear a student say their own name clearly, and have the courage to look an adult in the eye as they speak.
  3. The eye contact is very difficult for my students.  The majority of my kids are from Latin American countries, and eye contact can be seen as challenging their parents' authority.  As Jaime Escalante said of the English language, "English is the language of opportunity," I believe eye contact is the body language of opportunity for my kids.
I have scheduled a trip to the 8th grade hallway next week, so our team of kids can meet their future teachers.  They will have to introduce themselves and a friend to at least 4 teachers.  The 8th grade teachers are looking forward to it.  They are great about allowing me to bring their future students to visit at the end of the year.

In preparation for our "field trip" down the 8th grade corridor, I am recording my classes and showing the students their video on TV (as a whole class activity).  I wondered if this would be a good idea, but the kids are really good to each other about being supportive and helpful.  In just two days, the teachers on the hallway are already discussing the possibility of starting next year with these lessons to set expectations, but more importantly to demonstrate that our students will set themselves apart from other students (much like Ron Clark discusses in his book and speeches). 

Once we have enough videos demonstrating a proper delivery, I will post instructional videos here.

Anyone have other etiquette habits they teach?

Posted via email from Murry's World


At 2:26 PM, Blogger John Evans said...

I got the link to your blog from a tweet this afternoon from @tonnet. Manners will last a lifetime and are important skills for students to learn. As a former principal of a K-6 school we saw this as a need in our school too. One of my teacher's had used Ron Clark's book The Essential 55 (http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/chat/chat073.shtml) to me and we bought all staff a copy. We worked through a few skills as a staff on a monthly basis and worked with our students on them in class. It was a gr8 success.

John Evans
Former Principal St. Francois Xavier Community School


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