Everyone knows manners should be part of a student’s list of school supplies, tucked neatly among the pencils, papers, and textbooks. However, one of the most powerful reasons good social skills are so valuable might not be so obvious: etiquette can help give students a legitimate sense of control at a time when they are struggling most to gain some.
Especially on the first day of school, manners are very important. In the hallways and in the classroom, first impressions students make among their peers and teachers can mean the difference between being seem as a pariah and as the BMOC (Big Mister or Miss On Campus).
Students who arrive on time, and come prepared and organized, demonstrate consideration not only for their instructors, but for their classmates as well–even if they may not realize it. Delays and distractions caused by tardiness or a student who has to borrow a pencil or go back to their locker for a forgotten textbook implicitly sends a message that they don’t value others’ time or their education, to say nothing of the stress and frustration this causes everyone.
And, even if students are too cool to admit they care, they don’t want to be seen as “that kid” who can’t get their act together.
In the hallway, good eye contact and a firm handshake can help prevent unfounded and unfair assumptions. Stereotypes are easy to perpetuate from a distance, but the moment students engage one another, those stereotypes dissolve. Respect for others helps build a foundation on which a good reputation and friendship can be built. Similarly, demonstrating self-respect through grooming, dress, organization also makes an impression on others.
But one of the most important benefits of good social skills and etiquette is bigger than making friends, gaining the respect of authority figures, and even developing a healthy self-respect; it is the sense of control that comes from skillfully navigate their environment. Youth is a turbulent period where control seems hypothetical at best: parents, teachers, everyone–even their own bodies–seem to be calling the shots. Understanding and mastering etiquette is something substantive that students can do that has real and lasting impact on the world in which they live. So, for the student who feels that minding their Ps & Qs is pointless, especially in light of all the weighty issues they contend with on a daily basis, explain etiquette’s importance in terms of the power and control it offers.