Alumni and Lower Schoolers agree: good manners matter

Four adults on school stage during panel discussion
Jan 18 2024

Alumni and Lower Schoolers agree: good manners matter

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive and your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, and your track record. Both are vital.”
-Stephen R. Covey

Four adults on school stage during panel discussion

A new year and a new semester bring inspiring visits from our alumni. These graduates offer invaluable stories of their experiences and their accomplishments, and impressive wisdom gained during their college years and careers.

Early in the month, recent alumni who are still in college speak with current Upper School students in grade-specific groups where the former Cobras answer questions and offer advice. The insight and guidance imparted by these young alums can both challenge and reassure current students as they look to what’s ahead following graduation from Keystone.

Later in the month, “older” alumni come to campus to share their life experiences and journeys. Students sign up for sessions that meet their interests before all Upper School students gather in the theater to hear stories from an alumni panel. One of the lessons current Cobras learn on this day is that the path to success, however that is defined, may not be linear and can contain some unforeseen obstacles. Students also learn how to craft resumes and network, and attend an internship fair where they find out about opportunities in a variety of fields.

Thanks go to Ms. Christiansen, Ms. Villafranca, and Mr. Spedding for all the thought and planning that goes into making these days so successful.

One piece of advice that comes up regularly from alumni focuses on the importance of good communication and interpersonal skills, leadership, problem solving, work ethic, time management, and teamwork. These used to be called “soft skills” and are now better understood as “people skills,” or “human skills.”

Very often, they come down to good manners. That’s one of the reasons why we try to teach students that while academic excellence is necessary, it’s not sufficient by itself to be successful in college and beyond. Our other pillars-ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership-ask students to take what they are learning and apply it toward being good people as well as proficient in the classroom. The tenets of our Cobra Code-integrity, curiosity, empathy, creativity, and service-manifest our commitment to graduating well-rounded and whole people.

A couple of weeks ago in the Lower School, we launched a month-long initiative “Manners Matter,” that focuses on what may seem like good, old-fashioned, interpersonal skills like saying “Please, ” and “Thank You,” checking on someone who has fallen, or holding the door open for the person behind you. During a recent Town Hall, the wonderful 4th grade Leadership Students created and acted out short skits designed to teach and remind their fellow Lower Schoolers how to interact with one another in a positive and uplifting manner. Ms. Matthews and Ms. Shotzberger created ways to recognize when students go out of their way to be considerate to each other and to adults. Throughout the month, teachers will place a small pom pom in a large jar to recognize these considerate acts.

Ms. Matthews commented, “I think Pier Forni, a former professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of several manners books, said it best. He described manners as traffic lights for life and said that good manners make it so that we don’t crash into one another in our everyday interactions. We want our students to demonstrate good manners for reasons beyond simple etiquette. We want them to see manners as a communication tool; a way that we can show our care, consideration, and respect for one another. Through Manners Matter, we hope to shower the campus with a lot of good ‘manner moments’ and build stronger habits that will have a positive contribution to our overall community culture.”

These are habits we also practice on our Outdoor Education trips. After all, learning how to navigate relations in cabins and tents in Lower, Middle, and Upper School can provide excellent practice for dealing with roommates in college.

As adults in our children’s lives, we can help their people skills by modeling good manners and showing them how being considerate of others helps everybody.

At any age, when our students can draw upon their intellectual preparation and strong people skills, they will find a world filled with possibilities.

Or, as many alumni assure the current Upper Schoolers: “Don’t worry. You will do fine.”

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