Ask any teacher and she’ll tell you that etiquette in the classroom is not only important—it’s a necessity. Teachers often begin the school year with a foundation of classroom manners and etiquette, with the goal of establishing a respectful classroom culture. This commitment keeps the classroom running smoothly and can have a long-term impact on a child’s self-image.
Linda Williams, the founder of “Etiquette for Life” workshops recognizes the impact that proper etiquette has on learning. “I believe that knowledge of the rules of etiquette will help children be better people and teach them how to avoid conflicts, which reduces fighting. Etiquette also teaches respect, which should improve behavior in the classroom and increase students’ academic success.”
Parents play a pivotal role in helping kids recognize the importance of classroom etiquette by discussing appropriate behavior long before the first day of school arrives; yet even if you’re reading this article halfway through the school year, there is still plenty you can do to encourage good etiquette and get your child thinking about what’s expected in the classroom.
Classroom Etiquette for Children
A Greeting Goes a Long Way: Encourage your child to make eye contact and greet teachers and classmates. Saying, “Hello, how are you?” is a surprisingly simple gesture that is often ignored; insist that it be a part of your child’s regular routine for entering the classroom. (It can be disheartening for a teacher or fellow student to warmly greet a child and have that greeting go ignored!)
Introductions Are Important! The ability to make formal introductions is a social skill your child will use for a lifetime. Encourage your child to say, “Hello, my name is Sarah. What is your name?” In addition, your child isn’t too young to introduce you to her teachers or classmates. An introduction could be as simple as, “Mom, this is my friend Jill. She is in my class.” If your child forgets to introduce you to a friend or teacher, be consistent and gently prompt her to do so.
Respect Classroom Materials and Space: While teachers strive to make classrooms feel like a home away from home, kids need to respect classroom materials. Your child should treat the classroom and its contents as if they belonged to him—he wouldn’t want a guest coming into his home and throwing his books or breaking his pencils.
This also goes for cleaning up. Encourage your child to pick up after himself and keep a tidy desk. Practice organization skills at home by modeling how to arrange the books and items on your desk. Allow your child to practice organizing books and supplies on his own desk or have him practice on yours. Not only will this promote a respect for classroom materials, but children who are well organized can focus better on learning and ultimately have a greater sense of control.
Practice Patience: Every teacher has experienced it—a group of kids crowded around, jumping up and down and asking what seems like a million questions at once. Remind your child that he is one of many students and he must be patient and respect the teacher’s responsibility to attend to the needs of all students. This can be particularly hard for young children who are used to immediate responses to their needs. Teach your child to stand quietly by the teacher’s side until she has a moment to turn her attention to him, and help your child recognize what requires immediate attention and what can wait.
Sharing Shows Caring: In a classroom community, sharing is essential. Whether it be markers, crayons, building blocks, or books, children should understand that classroom materials are there for everyone’s use. If your child notices that another is not sharing, prepare her with some go-to statements that will politely prompt the classmate to share. Teaching your child to say, “Could I please use that marker when you are finished?” or “Is it all right if I share these blocks with you?” can go a long way. If your child brings something to share with the class, she ought to bring enough for everyone.
Invitation No-No’s: It is devastating for a child to realize he wasn’t invited to a party or a playdate when many of his other classmates were. Invitations should not be handed out at school; young children don’t have the discretion to open invitations outside of the classroom, and often feelings get hurt. Unless you plan to invite the entire class, pass out invitations after school hours.
Classroom Etiquette for Parents
Notions on Notices: If your child is in school, you are likely inundated with stacks of brightly colored notices. Be disciplined and go through these notices daily. If there is something that needs to be signed, do it promptly and return it as soon as you can. Teachers have a lot to manage, and sending home second or third notices to negligent parents adds to an already full schedule. Additionally, if you are sending in money for a book order or a school field trip, send the exact change.
Be Prompt: Arriving at school on time sets the tone for the day. Teachers often set aside time in the morning for children to put away their belongings and get settled. The child who is habitually late to school cannot benefit from that time to shift from the busy morning routine to the school routine. Not only is a late arrival disruptive to the class, but the child who is late often feels as if she’s missed something, and invariably the teacher must take time away from the rest of the class to get her settled. Making a conscious effort to have your child at school on time demonstrates respect for your child, her teacher, and her classmates.
Make an Appointment to Speak with the Teacher: A clear line of communication between parent and teacher is essential to a child’s success. Parents must be respectful of the teacher’s time. Stopping by first thing in the morning to talk to the teacher as she is preparing for the day is inappropriate. Likewise, a teacher cannot give proper focus to the students or your concern when children are streaming into the classroom. If you have a concern, write a note, send an email, or ask the teacher for a good time to meet. Setting up a mutually beneficial meeting time will benefit both parties, and your concern will receive the attention it deserves.
Be a Good Volunteer: If you plan to volunteer in your child’s classroom, discuss the role of a parent volunteer with your child. Remind him that volunteers are there to help all of the children in the classroom, and while you are very excited to see him engage in classroom activities, you cannot spend all of your time by his side. Volunteering allows you to get a sense of the classroom dynamics, the other students in the class, and the general atmosphere. Encouraging your child to behave as he would if you weren’t there will give you insight into how he manages his daily school life.
Good etiquette boils down to respect, care, and compassion. Adults and children who demonstrate good etiquette ultimately express an ability to be considerate and show empathy toward people with whom they come into contact. Taking the time to expect and model good etiquette for your child from day to day will not only help him find success in the classroom, but will lay the foundation for successful and respectful relationships in the future.