Every week I am given the unique opportunity to go into local schools and present “etiquette” lessons designed for student’s grades 1 -4. The programs are tailored to teach the basic principles of good manners helping to strengthen social and emotional development in young minds. Having a job that allows me to work with students during some of their most impressionable years comes with both privilege and great responsibility.
Since my culinary efforts are about as predictable as this year’s election, I’ve instead made a list of the ingredients I give my students each week that at best – help cultivate character skills necessary for becoming our future world leaders; at worst – a recipe for respect. And given the climate of our current political economy, I think it is important that we all take a moment to reflect on these basic ingredients and the ways we can mindfully bake them into the base personal lives and the core of our community.
1 Bag of handshakes
A handshake in a nonverbal language that reflects our levels of competency, trustworthiness and confidence. I teach handshakes by introducing my students to a ‘bag of bad handshakes’. Inside the ‘bag of bad handshakes’ are zip lock bags of rocks, goldfish, spaghetti, feathers and water to symbolize the bone crusher, dead fish, spaghetti, loosey goosey and sweaty handshake. The kids are blindfolded and have to guess what each bag consists of and what type of handshake the ingredients represent.
3 Cups of Empathy
Without this ingredient there would be no recipe at all. It is that key ingredient that distinguishes the difference between airport pizza and homemade pie.
The lesson on empathy begins with students passing around different types of shoes that I’ve purchased from goodwill or borrowed from friends. Inside of each shoe I’ve typed out different scenarios for the student to read out loud, then put on the shoes and decide how they would feel if they were the person who owned the shoes. For example, if the shoe belonged to a child born blind, the students are asked to blind fold themselves, try tying their shoes, and share other difficulties this individual might face.
2 Tablespoons of Forgiveness
Living in the past and not letting go of anger can have serious effects on our mental and physical health.
I teach forgiveness by having the kids play a game similar to hot potato. When the music stops whoever is holding the ‘potato’ gets us in front of the class and describes a time they felt either sad, mad or frustrated and then sits down inside of a large blanket. Once we have all three types of emotional baggage inside the blanket, a student will demonstrate the difficulty in attempting to drag this extra weight around the classroom. Once each child choses to forgive, the blanket becomes light again and the students better understand the importance of letting go of the unnecessary weight of a grudge.
1 pound of Gratitude
People who regularly take the time to express gratitude feel better, sleep better, have better relationships and even have boosted immune systems.
We begin the lesson on gratitude by first brainstorming a list of who and what we appreciate and how we show our appreciation for them. I explain that just as a tree needs sun and water to grow strong, we too need love and appreciation. Then we make leaves of gratitude and transform a bare stick to a beautiful tree.
Now, once you have mixed all of the ingredients together, bake on 350 degrees of kindness and enjoy!
Classes by Murphy’s Manners are available this spring and summer at Charleston Day School, Mason Preparatory School, Jennie Moore, James B. Edwards, North Charleston Creative Arts, Charleston Collegiate, Hazel Parker and Mount Pleasant Recreation. Private classes are also available for groups of 6+ as well as programs for universities and corporations. For more information, please contact Aly Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org