Returning to the servery this school year has been absolutely wonderful. Not only are we getting the students and teachers out of their classrooms, but they are also provided so many healthy and yummy choices this year. Because we are operating in the servery and dining rooms during a pandemic, we have implemented several health and safety measures. One of those measures is moving eight grade levels through one-at-a-time. In order to manage that many servery sessions, we’ve made some changes this year to be more efficient. One of my roles to help expedite movement through the servery is parsing out around 120 sets of silverware (fork, knife, and spoon wrapped in a napkin) to the students in the Lower School through four lunch waves. We also have Mrs. Murray and Ms. Pina who help pour and serve many, many milks, juices, and waters for the students each day.
Recently, as I was handing out the silverware sets, a student around third or fourth in the line said, “Thank you very much, Mrs. Schlossinger,” while looking up at me. I wish I could find the words to best describe how that simple statement made me feel. You see, up to that point, I was focused on moving the kids through, watching the clock, and hoping no one dropped their tray. Hearing that statement broke me out of my robotic state and brought a sense of calm and peace over me. I felt seen by that child and appreciated for my efforts to help them. I know it probably sounds silly, but to me, at the time, it wasn’t.
We can never underestimate the power of “please” and “thank you” or the joy of sharing “good morning” and making eye contact with one another. Exchanging civilities like these at school is something the teachers prioritize every day. Our students are given reminders, provided modeling, and explicitly taught about the value and importance of polite and kind behavior. At Renbrook, we believe civility means being respectful of others, putting the interest of the common good above self-interests, and treating others with decency, regardless of differences. We teach civility in the Lower School through daily Morning Meeting greetings and sharing and intentionally designed small group work. We also teach students how to listen to others, recognize their own emotions, learn how to be friend, and how to resolve conflicts in a respectful way.
The teaching of civilities is equally important in the home. Parents can start modeling and teaching manners from toddler stage to well into young adulthood. When a child gets off course, it’s critical for the school and family to work together to help redirect the child to be kinder and more empathetic toward others.
If your child is anything like mine, then you are aware of their keen and sometimes sneaky ways to listen in on adult conversations. Our children watch and are aware of everything we do. When we think they are focused on the TV, reading, or a game, they still hear us. It is imperative we model civility in our everyday lives such as at the grocery store, in the car while driving, and at restaurants.
Some ways to emphasize and support the development of civilities at home are:
Read aloud and discuss books with your child that emphasize empathy such as, The Hundred Dresses, Those Shoes, and You, Me, and Empathy.
Explicitly teach and remind children to use manners when interacting with others.
Consistently model civility when interacting with the child or others.
Set ground rules in the home for civil behavior.
Apologize when you are wrong.
Model and coach self-regulation and kindness when playing board games.
There is a famous quote by Mother Theresa that my middle school history teacher had hanging in his classroom that I have never forgotten, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” I think that child’s comment to me in the servery a few days ago, “Thank you very much Mrs. Schlossinger,” is still echoing in me today. Boy, the power of our words…