In its truest sense etiquette and self-esteem programs teach lessons on etiquette, self-esteem, inner beauty and life skills. It’s this program Cindy Wade decided to take into the school setting where she teaches at the elementary level. She believes in the adage of reaching children while they’re young.
“I taught high school for a while, but by the time the kids get to high school you see some bad habits, and they’re so set in their ways, so it’s so much easier to get them in lower school… kindergarten, and teach them things like sitting properly, being assertive and confident in their own skin. Who says skinny has to be in? You can be plump and beautiful,” said Wade.
The Etiquette Club is a program Wade heads at her church, and decided to bring to Nassau Christian Academy. The club is open to fourth through sixth grade students. According to Wade, the club’s pledge sums up in a nutshell what they do: “I pledge to honor God by the way I sit, stand and walk. My deportment will reflect the princess in me. I will bring glory to my king as I transform from a girl to a lady. With God’s help I aim to guard my purity of mind and body. I pledge to memorize scripture, faithfully attend church, maintain good grades and remain a committed member of this club. I pledge to use my speech for edification and encouragement, and provoke other girls to do the same. As an Etiquette Club member, I shall make my king and kin proud.”
Students learn things like how to sit properly — as Wade says, “to sit like ladies in their classes, squeezing their knees and toes together”.
“We let them know that that they’re like a diamond, and that they have to be searched for and dug out; that they’re not a penny on the street that nobody wants. They’re nobody’s dishcloth,” said Wade.
The students are also taught and practice introductions and greetings, because Wade says when an opportunity comes, and they’re not ready, they could be surprised, but they should never be unprepared. When the opportunity comes, she said, they should be ready.
They also delve into grooming issues and personal hygiene with the students
“So, we teach them about having their pouches with them with everything they need, including their wipes and to always have emergency undergarments in case of an accident, so we tell them to prep themselves, including having a toothbrush and toothpaste in their pouch. We teach them table manners, and that you start from the outside and work your way in,” said Wade.
The elementary teacher, who is assisted by fellow teacher Dina Resias with the club, said they expect the children to learn at church that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and at a Christian school level to help them realize they don’t have to be a “mattress” to feel like they’re somebody, or that they’re special. She said the goal is for them to learn to be confident in their own skin, be brilliant and beautiful at the same time and still have good character.
“We teach the students that some beautiful people still have foul mouths, and because they’re beautiful they feel they can get away with anything,” said Wade.
The club is not open to students in first through third grades, because Wade said they don’t want to expose very young girls to issues that teenagers deal with.
“Their time will come,” she said.
She said certain questions do arise, such as ‘Why do I need to study?’ and ‘Why do I need to sit properly?’.
Translate into the classroom
Wade said she hopes lessons learned in Etiquette Club translate into the classroom, and create a razor-sharp focus on the young ladies’ studies. She believes that, by doing something as simple as sitting properly in the classroom setting, girls can help their male counterparts who are stimulated by sight.
“You sit wrong, that poor boy, his mind … you just open up everything for him; so we’re helping our boys as well.”
She said club participants also learn to speak positively. She believes people like to excel and be praised, but uplifting isn’t done enough. She said too many people opt to tear others down.
“We want to be able to edify each other by the words that come out of our mouth. And if you have somebody who genuinely, whenever they see you, even when you’re down you look forward to seeing that person because they will find something positive to say about you, it translates to the classroom into [saying] ‘Let’s all work together to produce good grades. As we produce good grades we become better students, better citizens’. You’re free to help that person who doesn’t get it. Sometimes the teacher does not break it down, but at the student-to-student level they’re confident a peer won’t laugh at them if they didn’t get it quite right. Because they’ve been there to edify them all along; they can go to a peer at lunch time and say ‘I still didn’t get it even though the teacher went over it again, you think you can help me?’ And that’s what it’s to breed.”
She continued: “As children we used to say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’; that’s a fallacy. Words destroy you; a stick I can heal from. I remember a teacher saying to me, ‘You will never amount’; I can’t tell you what her name is, but I remember. Now all the positive teachers that told you that you would excel, why do you remember that one negative?”
Wade said teaching children to build each other up early bodes well for becoming uplifting adults wholook to promote others. Even in their etiquette club, she said she’s noticed that sometimes it takes longer than one year to learn proper etiquette, because some girls bloom later than others.
“If you’re better than I am at something, I give you your kudos. I don’t feel threatened. I have worth in me. Mine may not be yours, and yours definitely may not be mine, but we’re able to appreciate each other’s strength and to help each other’s weakness.”
NCA’s Etiquette Club was started three years ago, initially under the name “The Charmed” because of the book “Christian Charm”, written by Emily Hunter, but Wade said in hindsight “Charmed” almost sounded like they wanted to tease somebody and gave that feeling that they were trying to lure someone, or be illusive in their behavior to get somebody to like them, hence the club’s name change to the Etiquette Club.
In high school, the girls move on to The Butterfly Club where they learn about evolving, grooming and growing into a butterfly.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.