Back-to-school etiquette

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Hello everyone, it’s been a while since I shared one of my life etiquette articles. I’ve pondered lots of topics, and frankly, I was reticent to share because I was experiencing a “block” on topics that I believed would be interesting and noteworthy to you.

Well, this is it! How could the subject of school success not be important? I’m not just talking about reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. I’m talking about preparation for engagement with others for successful relationships.

As we prepare to go back to school, let us remember that it’s not just the students who should be prepared but all who are involved in the educational system—parents, bus drivers, hall monitors, teachers, office staff, principals, coaches, and yes, the district officers and school board members. 

You may have heard my motto, “manners are memorable,” so put your best foot forward and claim your seat at the table. When you are at the table, you are better positioned for success. 

Well, at any point in time, we may be at the “table together.” Picture the “table” as an analogy for the different spaces and places where our lives intersect.  

Here are a few examples: The bus stop, the school bus and the public bus, the classroom, the district board meeting, and of course, the cafeteria.  

Now picture the table with guests who reflect the diversity of our population—age differences, cultural and ethnic differences, education and background differences, etc. If each person at the table is doing their own thing with no consideration of others, what would the table look like? What would it be like? Scary image, right?

In creating an environment that is positive and productive for all, we must be mindful of and intentional about the way we come to the table together. Here are a few tips to help us prepare for a successful school year. These are just a few. I will include a fuller list of tips on my website:

Whether pre-k or college or corporate, establish a routine for getting ready for the school or workday. If you are a working parent, then you know that you want to reach your workplace calm and collected so that you can have a productive day. Your children need the same.  

You might get some resistance from older children, so be sure to involve them in establishing a routine. Establish mealtime, bath time, bedtime and wake-up and get-ready time, study time, screen time and play/recreation time.

Whether starting a new school or starting a new job or even entering a new worksite, children, youth and adults may experience the jitters. They may feel nervous and anxious about entering a new situation. 

smiling black schoolgirl with textbook
Photo by Mary Taylor on

To help overcome or at least face new situations, consider these strategies: Identify and affirm your strengths (your child’s strengths and positive attributes). Arrange a visit before the first day and familiarize yourself (your child) with the environment. 

Play games that encourage communication and expressions of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Practice introduction skills—saying your name, making eye contact, smiling, and some topics to talk about.

Discuss expectations for your home environment as well as expectations for all the areas of the day—bus, school, hallways and common areas, classroom, cafeteria, library and the office. 

If your child (or you) is a super introvert and painfully shy, you might need a bit more preparation than others. Seek help in overcoming shyness including television programs, groups or clubs or therapeutic intervention.  

Other preparations that can help to overcome the nervousness and anxiety are to get physical or tangible things in order: select your wardrobe (what you are going to wear). Try selecting your outfits for a week at a time. It can be done, and you’ll appreciate it once you start.  

Make lunch menus if you take lunch. Set up your backpack, book bag or briefcase with the supplies you need for school and/or work. Get a lay of the land—the physical school or office building. 

Again, whether you are a child or an adult, it helps to establish open and respectful communication. Some ways to get started on the “good foot” are to learn names. This includes bus drivers, teachers and cafeteria workers—anyone your child or you come in contact with during the day.  

Parents may feel more at ease and more willing to support a teacher if they know their background, experience and teaching style. Be an advocate for your child, the teachers, and the school.

Some of the most important things we can do to achieve school and job success are to practice school and workday etiquette.

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