Students learn about social graces
By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 1, 2010
On the way to their new elective class, the seventh- and eighth-graders walked under the fluorescent cafeteria lights and past bagged lunches on tables, awaiting the first lunch shift.
What they saw on the other side of the wall at Concordia University School made many whisper and cast surprised looks at their friends: candles amid a 15-piece table setting, white tablecloth, silver platters and fine china, soup bowls and a centerpiece.
Presentation is everything in Camille Monk's etiquette class. The 29-year-old has started a business bringing classic social training to urban schools, in the hopes that teaching tolerance and respect will help the students successfully navigate future social situations. The payoff for students who complete the class: a formal five-course lunch or dinner at Bacchus restaurant downtown.
But at a time when budget cuts have eliminated long-established specials such as gym, art and music in many school buildings, financial support for manners training is a struggle, even though experts say soft skills - from properly eating at a dinner table to managing a Facebook page - are critical for today's students.
"A lot of the children I'm working with are around a lot of negative energy and negative vibes all the time," said Monk, who leads an elective course at Concordia University School and Young Leaders Academy, a charter school. "The bottom line is respecting others and being tolerant. But it's hard to retrain someone when they're planted in a negative environment."
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