Polishing manners, dancing shoes

By Greg Gelpi

Rowdy and uncivilized, teachers burst into the cafeteria giggling, fighting over seats and stuffing potato chips in their mouths.

The Kilpatrick Elementary School teachers, illustrating what not to do, instill etiquette and manners in their students, readying them for "One Enchanted Evening," what will be the first social event for many of the students.

"I was thinking what are they doing," Yasminee Jones, 8, says. "They are acting crazy. They're acting like they don't have manners."

John Le, 8, calls the behavior demonstrated by the teachers, "rude."

"They should talk nicely and share chairs," Le said.

The reactions are what the teachers hope for as the students prepare for Friday's semi-formal dance.

Both Jones and Le say it will be their first dance and both are looking forward to it.

"I especially like to dance because I get to twirl around like this," Jones says, raising one hand over her head and pirouetting like a ballerina.

The etiquette lessons include proper ways to ask for a dance, to speak in a social setting and behave at a table.

There's a difference between way students should act in private settings and social settings and the etiquette training shows the differences, Early Intervention Program teacher Carol Landgrebe says.

"I think a lot of them don't know the difference between private and social manners," Landgrebe says, explaining that their behavior with friends isn't always appropriate behavior for formal social occasions.

Teachers behaving outrageously and flamboyantly, Early Intervention Program teacher Melissa Smith says, "grabs" students attention and impresses upon them the proper ways to act.

"We've just seen them enough at school that they don't know how to choose their behavior based on their setting," Smith says.

Counselor Suzanne Scarbrough says that manners are more than simple niceties, but about how people should treat each other.

"I think the goal (of manners) would be to always consider the feelings of another, which is what good manners is all about," Scarbrough says.

The dance is a reward for students based on their good behavior, fourth-grade teacher Kamisha Wiley says.

Students will be sent invitations and must use proper etiquette by responding to an R.S.V.P., which is short for "repondez s'il vois plait" as the children learn.

To encourage good behavior, the school gives each student a card with the word "dance." Students who misbehave will have a letter removed from their cards. Those with a letter of the word "dance" remaining will be allowed to attend the dance.

As with high school dances, the school will also announce a king and queen during the event.

"All schools mirror society," Assistant Principal Patrice Williams says. "We felt it was our responsibility to teach children social skills."

Centerpieces and other decorations are made by faculty and staff, and parents are donating refreshments and other items for the dance, Wiley says.