Friday, May 22, 2009


This weekend is Memorial Day.
Hot Dogs. Hamburgers. Potato Salad. All good things.
Even greater is getting back to the reason for the weekend. Remembering those who have defended us, promoted our security, and gave the ultimate sacrifice. Remembering is an exercise in expressing our own humanity. There are so many stories of bravery, selflessness, and honor for our focus. Just select one and give a heartfelt thank you. It is a gesture, but one that resounds within.

Did anyone else notice that Barack O'bama spoke at the Naval Academy's graduation? It was interesting to me that his former presidential election opponent's son was one throwing his hat into the air. John McCain and his wife sat with others as proud parents watching their son accept his hard earned credentials. Imagine how close it came to this man offering his son his diploma. Do you think it crossed his mind as he listened to O'Bama driving home his secrets for success? You betcha. Life has its moments, doesn't it?

On Saturday of this Memorial Weekend I will be celebrating in an entirely new way: waiting for the Sears dishwasher repairman. At the onset it sounds like a glorious waste of time; but, I am actually looking forward to being tethered home for some time. There are several projects in which I am invested and many more I could initiate. So, having the gift of time is a thrill. Nothing else is really hanging over my head, so I actually find myself at an ideal time. It is the point on my timeline for which I've waited for years and I am calmly thrilled.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a little entertainment, take a look at my latest and greatest blog site: AWKWARD FAMILY PHOTOS. It is pure gold, folks. Thanks for passing it along, Jesse. I promise to keep our photos off the internet.

Spring time brings many seasonal items along with it: strawberries, allergies, and end of year testing. During the next two weeks my students will be sitting for their Standards of Learning tests or, as we lovingly refer to them, SOLs. Prior to being a teacher, SOL had its own, unique meaning. In a way, that primary definition still continues with the new testing definition. All in all, what it means to the kids is the year is over. The issue is that we still have nearly a month to go before we release for break.

So, what is a gal to do? I've presented all the material and information these little lovelies should have entertained during their fourth grade experience. Now we get to explore. Now we get to see some topics I can't cover through the year as deeply as I would like. Now is the time I get to dabble in a few private projects with the kids.

What is my central topic? Etiquette. Yes, etiquette. The social graces. That is my personal focus with students, but especially at this point in the year. Many of my students are "latch key" kids who eat way too much and frequently from Styrofoam and paper wrappers. Many are first or second generation from third world countries living an immigrant's experience. They are darling, beautiful kids; but, their parents are gone more than they would like to be. Many work 2 and 3 jobs to pay bills, rent, and save for either their next visit home or to send money to relatives in their old village.

These kids are intelligent and fully capable of grasping the academic experience. When they finish school and attempt employment, one of the last bastions of discrimination can be based in the world of social engagement. They might be fully educated, but can they navigate a reception? Do they know the correct knife and fork to use at a formal dinner? Is there a level of equalized comfort in environments demanding seamless social behavior along side those from a more privileged background?

Please know that an etiquette class won't balance all of this out, but I do take comfort in the fact that it does make a distinct difference. The first class I did this with are graduating from high school this year. Talking with some of these same former students, they gleefully tell me how they used their knowledge during prom time, a wedding reception or a quinceanera (a 15th birthday celebration for a girl).

I have the dorkiest video on table etiquette that we watch together. It is awful, but one of the only ones I am able to find on the market. THE KIDS LOVE IT. It is so old that the padded shoulders in the girl's dresses are nearly to costume level. Yet, these kids are enthralled because they don't understand that it is dated. All they know is that isn't a lifestyle they've seen, so it must be the way it is. The video shows a multiculturally blended group of kids being carted around in a limousine to a country club luncheon. The boys assist the girls in being seated. The table is fully set with plate chargers. On the table there is more silver than they've seen displayed since their dad's uncle smiled at the last family party.

To go along with this I bring in crystal, china, silver, linens, salt and pepper shakers: the works.
Students practice setting the table properly, folding napkins with a flourish, seating each other, napkin placement, excusing themselves from the table. All in all, we play house on a much higher level. Again, they love it and are incredibly kind while ensuring that everyone is proceeding according the standards set by Letitia Baldridge.
Once armed with the knowledge, these kids monitor and ensure proper behavior all on their own. It is a thing of beauty watching it all unfold.

The culminating experience is a luncheon at a restaurant across the street from the school. Girls arrive at school in dresses while the boys sport ties. One year a little boy showed up with a suit which was a step away from a tuxedo. It is beyond being darling. We line up two by two or as close as we can get. Boys escorting the girls across the street like gentlemen, holding doors and scooting chairs willingly. Everyone is on their best behavior. They treat each other with all the social graces they are able to engage. It makes my heart sing.

When we start our etiquette lessons, I'll keep you posted and give you a peek into this awakening. It will give you hope for the future.

And so it goes.

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