Should we teach manners?

I sometimes have a friendly argument with a colleague who teaches penmanship to her students. I question her if it is necessary in today’s world… or rather the future world that these young 8 year-olds we teach will be living in when they grow up. Possibly touch typing would be better to teach? On second thought, will they even need that skill? Won’t they just use their thumbs to type or more likely ask Siri or Alexa?

Some things should remain the same for these kids in the future though. My argument and focus recently has been on skills that I believe they will need no matter how the world changes. This #SkillsFirst approach focuses on areas like communication skills, thinking skills, research skills, self-management skills, and social skills.

What about manners though?

While that is not exactly a skill, I do feel that it is something important for students to learn. The question is, are manners something that will change as these children grow up or is it worth teaching?

I’d like to explain with an example that just happened in my class.

We are doing a unit focused on research skills and are layering the content of “exploration” around it. I have a student who was researching into a young explorer from Australia. As she is still alive, in her twenties now. I suggested that she email her some questions. I asked her to craft an email (something we learned about in an earlier unit) and show it to me before sending. When she showed me the email, it was very direct and lacking the politeness that one should include when requesting information from someone they do not know. I took this opportunity to show her how to embellish the email and add some politeness to the language.

We were very happy when we received a quick reply from this young explorer with the answers to her questions. It was very nice of her to take the time to respond and my student was overjoyed by getting an actual response from her.

Of course, after getting this message, I thought this would be another opportunity to teach manners to my student. One must reply to such a considerate email with a thank you email. I asked her again to craft one herself.

When we looked at her email, it basically just said “thanks” and she wanted to include emojis. I explained that was not the right manners when sending a thank you message. Also, emojis are best left for personal text messages, not emails. I explained that she should tell her she really appreciates the time she took to write and even go a step further by saying something that she learned or found interesting from her email. She agreed and re-wrote it including the extra polite verbiage.

Then it happened… shortly after sending her revised thank you, she received a reply from this young explorer. The reply simply read:

 

👍

Sent from my iPhone

 

This isn’t just a younger generation thing either.

During our digital citizenship unit, we spent a lot of time teaching students polite ways to comment on other people’s work. Then, when their parents made comments, they often didn’t follow any of the manners we taught to their kids.

So my question is this… are the politeness and manners of things like thank you notes still going to be relevant when these 8 year-olds enter the work force? Is it something worth teaching or is it something that is changing?

I’d love to hear your comments.

When you do though, please use proper manners 😉

2 thoughts on “Should we teach manners?

  1. I think, as educators, we ought to do EXACTLY what you did. We should take advantage of learning opportunities to teach children how to respond to varied situations in appropriate ways. I don’t believe that a “unit” should be taught on manners, as I think that would lack context and connection. However, I do think that children need to learn how to ask for what they want using kind language that makes the other person want to help them. THAT is a valuable skill!

    1. Thanks Danny – What about the fact that the reply she received didn’t follow the same “appropriate” manner that I taught? Or the fact that parents don’t seem to abide by the same “rules” we teach about commenting? If students don’t see this being followed by the people they contact or those around them, it starts to seem inauthentic and untrue. Those manners then become the norm…

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