Elbows off!

Walland students apply class lessons at Ruby Tuesday

Photo with no caption
By Tony Karnowski
For Blount Today

The final exam included burgers and fries.

And, while the fourth and fifth grade students from Walland Elementary were certainly given special treatment on Wednesday, Dec. 20, the lunch at Ruby Tuesday was more than a mid-morning treat.

The lunch was both the reward and the "test" for a class taught by Brenda Reynolds and other teachers at Walland Elementary, designed to teach children basic manners and how to act in social situations.

Reynolds has included the manners class in her curriculum for the past four years for both the fourth and fifth grade students. She concentrates on the basics and takes the students out to lunch at the end of the program for them to practice what they’ve learned.

"I just wanted them to have some idea of what basic manners are," Reynolds said. "One of these days these young people are going to be out interviewing for jobs, and it’s important to know how to sit and eat properly. And knowing how to introduce yourself is important if you want to make a good first impression."

Reynolds says she focuses on the absolute basics, hoping to help reinforce the importance of being confident in today’s world. "Manners," she said, "boil down to simple respect. If you respect other people, it will show in your actions."

As the fifth graders filed off the bus and into the restaurant on the warm December morning, it was apparent that the curriculum has had the desired effect. The children were quiet, yet still jovial, and took their seats with surprising grace and composure. The boys remembered to pull out the chairs for the girls, and there wasn’t an elbow on a table as far as the eye
could see.

The teachers at Walland Elementary introduce the manners program in the fourth grade, so by the time they started the program again in the fifth grade, most of the kids were old hat.

"By the time they get to fifth grade, the kids have had the class twice," Reynolds said. "We pretty much repeat the same things, just to reinforce the most important basics."

These basics include how to set a table, basic etiquette and the proper way to greet someone. They also touch on the differences in silverware, teaching the kids when to use the appropriate utensil.

"We don’t go much past the basics," Reynolds said, "but I make sure they’re well-rounded."

"It’s always interesting to see how the kids behave when we get to Ruby Tuesday," fifth grade Walland Elementary School teacher Saundra Wilson said. This is her third year participating in the program, and she says whenever the kids arrive at the restaurant they’re always on their best behavior. "We see them everyday and get them at their most rambunctious, so
it’s nice to see them putting the things they’ve learned to use."

As the children waited for lunch to be served, they sat at their tables quietly chatting with each other. They were polite and waited until everyone had been served before they started eating. By the end of the meal they proved they were well-versed in everything they’d been taught.

The lessons have a residual effect, the teachers have noticed. It’s not just at the table that Wilson said you can see a change. She said the kids are more polite in general and have a tendency to use "please" and "thank you" more often than before the class.

Photos by Leslie Karnowski

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