One thing my dad always instilled into me both at home and at school was the vital importance of good manners. Indeed, that must be something they teach at PE college as the quote on the door of the PE office in my current school is ‘good manners cost nothing’. Bad manners are mostly evident in class room management contexts and it begs the question – is it that some pupils are just not mature enough or do they actually not have the basic social niceties and manners to cope with the discipline of school?
I can forgive S1 pupils at the beginning of high school and their struggle to deal with the huge difference in their school experience but now as we speed towards the Easter holidays my patience is definitely wearing thin and have told pupils that they are now coming across as rude. On the other hand when discussing food the words melon and coconut provoke sniggers and laughter and shows their lack of maturity. Maturity is something that evolves but, surely, by the age of 11 or 12, pupils should have sufficient manners to not talk when the teacher is talking, not to throw pencils at each other and not talk to each other during a listening task? From my experience the manners are lacking.
I have come across a number of pupils further up the age spectrum who just cannot cope with basic discipline procedures. Their first instinct is to either lash out or walk out. They are not mature enough to deal with the consequences of their actions and their bad manners are a reaction. This is not behaviour that is taught in secondary school and I believe that good manners instilled at a younger age will help deal with the lack of maturity.
Children mature at different rates and I would not wish it to be any different but manners are not age dependent. A lack of manners can manifest itself through a lack of maturity but a lack of maturity does not necessarily constitute bad manners. Benjamen Disraeli said ‘ Today, manners are easy and life is hard’ and that rings just as true today. If school leavers are not equipped with good manners what is already a hard world will be even harder for them.