Thursday, September 25, 2014

Etiquette On Wheels

Periodically there is a buzz about 'character education'. This is taken to mean 'learning how to behave'.

On the bus to Iowa it occurred to me that how the SK 7-8 operates provides a steady series of opportunities for this type of learning, because we are constantly doing things together, and frequently on the road, moving about as a group in the public eye.

Before we left, I gave a short speech on the bus, as teachers do. I reminded the kids that we were in for a long drive and that three reminders might be useful: seats, screaming, and shushing.

A bus bombing down the freeway at sixty miles an hour is a noisy place. If you try to talk with someone who isn't sitting in one of the seats next to you, behind you, or just opposite, you're probably shouting just to be heard. Please don't.

Even if that joke was hilarious, or, no, you definitely do not like that boy, or if the song that just came on Pandora is, in fact, totes your jam, it is still not all right to respond by screaming. Screaming is not allowed on the bus.

And if your seatmate has not absorbed the first two messages and shouts or screams anyway, then politely shushing him is fine, but if you yell 'Shut UP!' at the top of your lungs, you are not actually helping matters.

At Summers-Knoll, we are always doing things together, and especially travelling together: to the university labs, to Detroit, to the Upper Peninsula, to museums, or, in this case, to Iowa. We are together about half the time over the course of a normal school day. There is a constant, hopefully subtle, corrective stream of talk regarding behavior: these are the expectations, and this is why. If you are late, enter like a ninja. If you lucked out and got a seat in the shade, offer it to someone who's been in the sun for two hours. Yes, you may do that, but not yet. We become accustomed both to the norms and to their explanations.

After that initial set of reminders, how many times did I shush the busload of middle schoolers in the trip across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and into Iowa? Not once.

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