Friday, 23 August 2013

Manners maketh the man

After a month at the Happy House, volunteer Francis Asher is very much "Uncle Frankie" to all our kids.
Frankie, who is taking a career break from a high powered job in the City,  has an infectious energy and enthusiasm and the children are having great fun joining in activities with him, but also in learning from him.
In one lesson, before school broke up for the holidays, Uncle Frankie was left alone with a class and had five minutes to fill. He takes up the story:
:" My second lesson with Class 5 was nearly over, the kids finish scribing their homework and the teacher left the classroom to see someone. Twelve eyes are fixed on me and they are clearly expecting me to teach them something. I find myself  racking my brain for some useful knowledge I can perhaps pass on to them. Buy, Sell, Mine, Yours. No, don’t be an idiot Frank.
I don’t know why I was surprised, but one of the first things I noticed when I arrived at the house was how well mannered and respectful all of the children were. I turned to the whiteboard and wrote the title, Good Manners
 As I underlined it, the class in harmony read it out. I then listed various words and phrases someone uses when displaying good manners. Please. Thank you. You are welcome. Ladies first. After you. Gentleman. Lady. Like the title, without instruction, they read allowed the first three words/phrases and stopped at Ladies first. I asked the class if anyone knew what I meant by ladies first. No one raised their hand.
I walked over to the door, and began to explain the concept of ladies first. “Gentleman, when you are walking with a lady and you come to a doorway, it is good manners to always open the door, stand back and invite the lady to go in front of you, and say either ‘ladies first or after you’”. The class erupted into laughter. I couldn’t help but also chuckle. It was clear this isn’t something they had ever heard of. I went on to explain to the boys in the class that it is vital you always behave like a gentleman and particularly to girls. To behave like a gentleman is respectful, it shows you have manners, and it doesn’t cost anything to behave like a gentleman.
I asked for a volunteer.
 All hands went straight up. I asked Nigel, one of the day pupils, to come up and demonstrate what you do when approaching a door when accompanied by a lady. He did it perfectly. All of the girls burst into laughter. I then went onto explain to the ladies how it is as important to behave like a lady for a girl, as it is a man a gentleman. To say thank you to a man when he opens a door for you or offers you his seat on a bus. I went onto explain other examples of where it is good manners for a man to display he is a gentleman.
 The bell rang and like always there was a rush to form a line at the door, only this time the boys waited for the girls to go first and then followed behind them. The girls found it hysterical. I high- fived all of the boys and congratulated them on all being fine young gentleman. I warned them that now I had explained to them how important it is, I would be watching them (like in Meet the Parents, I put my fore and middle finger up to my eyes and then pointed back at each one of them individually).
We walked down to the banda together where all of the other classes were waiting for tea and break time. The headmaster, Mr Athumani then calls the classes up, one by one to collect their tea and bread. He calls Class 5. Test time. Like when the bell goes at the end of each lesson, all of the kids get up from their table and rush towards the serving table in an almost a race like fashion. As the first boy racer got close, he remembered ladies first, stopped on his toes, slightly bowed, and waved his hand to let the ladies go first. The girls, shocked and still laughing got their tea and bread first. I high-fived each of the boys and felt oddly proud that I might have actually taught these children something
 It felt so good
 I am so excited for the weeks ahead."