History of the Etiquette Curricula
Etiquette and formal manners have always been an interest of mine. Contrary to casually winging it, predetermining what to do and say keeps stress and misunderstandings at bay. My love of formal rules and reading Judith Martin, especially as I was attending many weddings, was a fitting precursor to the beginning of the etiquette program for the all-girls cluster, in which I taught.
There were many good girls in the cluster, but I could see that they needed to learn some straightforward facts on etiquette. I began to teach them etiquette rules. They loved it, their parents encouraged me, and my etiquette teaching became more formal as the girls asked me “the right way” to do or say things. I took a look at what I thought were the components of a person leading a gracious life: someone who writes letters to out of town loved ones; someone who sends out birthday notes and letters to the same; someone who gives dinner parties as a way of keeping in touch with friends; someone who volunteers her time; and someone who is civic-minded - with the added fun of dressing up, acting modest, speaking formally, going to the theater, and using good table manners. With hard work, my brainchild became a reality!
I created a 16-week program which fits well over the course of an academic school year. Allowing for vacations and three-day weekends, I came up with a 16-week semester of club meetings and off campus events. While I worked to fashion interesting yet pertinent lessons, I devoted an hour after school for prepared etiquette lessons for girls who were willing to put their etiquette knowledge to use. Other teachers took note of my effort and my etiquette club, loved what I was doing, and one teacher even used my lessons and scripts to teach them after school to her students. This enthusiastic response encouraged me to seek grants for the nonprofit that I had created. Businesses and foundations were happy to award grants and in-kind materials and expertise once they saw my program. After my lessons evolved to a full, mature curriculum, teachers, and sometimes funders, kept asking me to extend my program to boys, then to younger children.
To this day, I have former, now grown-up students approach me with what a good English teacher I was. And they always bring up how I changed their lives with “The Etiquette Club: Literacy and Leadership through Gracious Living.” It was indeed the knowledge of what gracious living was and that it was available to anyone who wanted to live a gracious life.
Ginger E. Whitaker
Ginger Whitaker is founder of Papyrus Literary Enterprises, and was publisher and editor of Papyrus, a literary magazine for writers that stayed in publication for nine years. She is a published author of a novel, entitled The Dowry, published by Holloway House Publishing Company, Los Angeles, 1989. She has had short stories published in the literary journal Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review, North Carolina State University. She has working experience in literary criticism and co-authored a writer’s manual of phrases to help the beginning writer stimulate creativity and to help the professional with writer’s block. She was co-founder of Greater Hartford African American Writers Guild, where members met to read, critique, and give feedback on their work.
After she created The Etiquette Club: Literacy & Leadership through Gracious Living, she was inspired to write down her lessons and make them available to any teacher interested in teaching good manners and gracious living. Teen Etiquette: Lessons in Gracious Living, Teen Etiquette: Lessons in Grooming a Gentleman, and The Charming Child: Etiquette for Boys and Girls were the results. She taught seventh and eighth grade reading and English for twenty-nine years.
Saeed Singletary was an eighth grade science teacher and sixth grade math teacher. She spent over ten years tutoring a range of subjects including Math, English, Latin, and Study Skills in Connecticut and New York City. She conceived and co-authored The Charming Child: Etiquette for Boys and Girls. Currently, she is the Program Manager with Thurston Whitaker and provides support for those organizations who seek out help in implementing our etiquette and character education programs nationwide.