How to teach an etiquette class

Etiquette skills include much more than simply remembering to keep those pinkies up.

Knowing the proper etiquette for any situation can mean the difference between getting a job, impressing the in-laws, or retreating home with head hanging low. As more people learn the value of etiquette, the demand for learning such skills continues to increase. With the proper skills and training, teaching etiquette classes for both adults and children can be a lucrative business.

Step 1: Review your etiquette skills by reading books such as Judith Martin's Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior or Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette. To teach children, review Sheryl Eberly's 365 Manners Kids Should Know. Visit the International Etiquette Centre to learn quick etiquette tips or take a course to become an etiquette consultant.

Step 2: Plan your class by creating your own curriculum or use prepackaged teaching curriculum materials, such as the various programs at Etiquette Outreach or Etiquette Moms. Decide how often, where and when you will teach. Set your class prices.

Step 3: Announce your class to local schools, libraries, businesses or other locations that may want to utilize your services. Make flyers or business cards, post ads and advertise via any other local venues.

Step 4: Hold your class on the date and time announced. Pass out any handouts or reading lists you have prepared and announce expectations for the course.

Step 5: Conduct your class according to your teaching plan. Use props such as dinnerware and phones to demonstrate proper etiquette techniques. Allow students to practice these techniques together through role playing.

Step 6: Wrap up your lesson with a review and ask if there are any questions. Give a verbal quiz if you wish to assess how much students learned. Provide assignments for homework if you will have multiple class sessions.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Churches often charge small fees or allow free space for class use.
  • It can be helpful to create a website to provide further details about your classes, such as contact information, dates and pricing.
  • Check to see if you have any local homeschooling groups that may be interested in your etiquette classes.
  • Local schools, businesses and libraries may also wish to employ you to provide classes or assembly content.
  • Remain professional and courteous while teaching in order to lead by example.

Be up front with clients about your experience and credentials to avoid possible litigation. You may also wish to create a release form for students to sign stating that your class does not guarantee a job or any other direct benefits.

Girls Think of Everything

Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Yesterday I had misgivings about my child checking out library books, as I often do. It’s not because I don’t want her to—of course not!—but because she always already has her 30-book limit met and then she has to use space on my card or her dad’s. We don’t mind, but it makes for some confusing renewal issues.

Of course, I let her use my card—what else are you gonna do?—and she chose some really fun books. One of the books is about female inventors. It’s called Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. I know that sounds a little sexist—do girls really think of everything without boys, after all?—but when you think about it, nearly all of our history is presented from a “boys think of everything” mentality, and our kids rarely ever hear about anything invented by a woman. In fact, the only female inventor that I can even think of is Marie Curie.  So, this book will be enlightening for both of us.

Browsing through it, I have to admit I was hoping for some real photos of these women rather than the caricature drawings within it. Still, it’s got some very interesting information, and while it’s pretty wordy, it’s still interesting, not the dry factual information you might expect.

For example, did you know that the Apgar Score was invented by a woman doctor? The first ice cream cone was invented by a woman, so legend goes—and some of the first inventions by women were patented in their husbands’ names since it was illegal or simply more difficult for women to obtain patents. So there could be many other inventions that we don’t know about that were made by women, too.

Some very popular inventions created by women include chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers, Kevlar, liquid paper, and Scotchguard. Reading through the stories, you’ll find that some finds were purely accidental—while others were methodically tried and tested in order to solve a particular problem or fill a need.

Children—both boys and girls—will enjoy these fun stories and perhaps even come away from the story feeling as if they, too, could create something new and useful for our society. An eleven year old girl was the inventor of the no-spill feeding bowl, after all, that many parents rely on when traveling or feeding toddlers.

A night at your local store

This is a learning experience for all!

I know I’m always going on about how every experience in life is a learning experience—but, well, it’s the truth! We learn so much in our everyday lives that we just take for granted. Spend a couple of hours in your local store one evening with your kids and I tell you, they will learn so much.

We spent a few hours doing just that at our local Target last night (all we bought were a couple of snacks at the café and some stickers; the rest of the time was just idly browsing!) and here’s a little bit of what we learned…

Different textures on dog beds, toys, and treats fed her curiosity about what animals do and don’t like. Why did some toys squeak while others did not? Perhaps smaller dogs would be startled, while larger ones enjoyed the sounds—or would it be vice versa? We spent quite a bit of time speculating about this, as well as browsing the dog care products and talking about everything that goes into caring for a dog, from vaccinations to training and potty care.

Dragging her through the beauty aisle started to be a chore until we found a pumice stone, which sparked a conversation about igneous rock and lava. She swore up and down that the stone was still a little hot, then made up an entire story surrounding it, where it came from, and what we had to do with it. She was very disappointed when we didn’t purchase it, but when I told her it was that or the stickers, the stickers won out.

Looking through the laundry detergents, we talked about how much they cost versus making your own, how the ones that were supposed to be easy on the earth were still heavily packaged—was that still good for the earth? This same discussion came up over a few items in the store, particularly the plastic bags people used.

Using our discount card was a fun new experience for her, and she loved to pay the cashier—though she was bummed that the change was given back to me rather than her, considering that she was the one who paid!

There were dozens of other things we learned at the store—plus some fun things we did, like trying on hats—and I heartily recommend this pretty much free activity to do if you’re looking for something fun in rainy or hot weather with your kiddo.

Top four things to know about the Common Core State Standards

As states begin to implement the Common Core Standards, they are the main topic of conversation in schools across the country. Lesson plans, text books, assessments and more must be aligned to these standards and teachers panic as they wonder if their tried and true materials are up to par. Before beginning to panic about beginning a new school year with the new standards, it may help to understand them a little better.  You may find out that they’re not as daunting as they seem.

  1. If your students are already thinking critically, they’re OK.  The Common Core Standards are designed to introduce students to a more rigorous curriculum that causes them to think critically.  If you’re reaching the higher levels of Bloom’s, you’re OK.
  2. Your students will read more non-fiction than literature. When people read in real-life, it’s usually work-related or to gain information. The Common Core Standards are designed to help students develop real-life reading skills and understand the complexities on non-fiction texts.
  3. No matter what subject you teach, your students will be writing. Writing helps students organize thoughts and ideas and gives them a place to think critically, reflect and be creative.  By writing in different subjects, students will become more proficient writers and be able to write for multiple purposes.
  4. No matter what subject you teach, your students will be reading. Often students who do not do well in a subject because they cannot understand the material, not because they don’t like it. The Common Core Standards introduce students to a variety of texts in every subject area to help them learn, gain more access to information and learn subject-specific vocabulary.

Flipped classroom: A new academic concept

Flipped classrooms are one of the latest trends in the world of education because of their power to radically transform the way students learn.  No, flipping a classroom does not involve moving the desks around. A flipped classroom takes the traditional learning structure and turns it around. Instead of giving students information during class time and sending them home with homework, students get the information at home and do the homework and other practice activities in class. While flipped classrooms may sound odd, there are multiple reasons they can improve how students learn.Flipped classrooms make sure students get in critical practice time. Students do not always complete homework, may rush through assignments or get more help than necessary from a parent, friend or sibling. In a flipped classroom, students do not have to find time to complete assignments and teachers can guarantee they are doing the work on their own.

Flipped classrooms give students more opportunities for one-on-one time with their teachers. As students work through problems, their teachers can see where they have difficulty and address it during the process. Students can also ask questions directly to the teacher during the process.

Flipped classrooms engage students. Lectures, reading from textbooks and generally conveying information can be boring. A flipped classroom decreases the amount of time students spend getting information and increases the amount of time they spend doing hands-on activities and practice. This keeps them engaged during class time. At home, students are motivated to review the material because they know it is necessary to complete the in-class activities the next day.

A teacher's perspective on education change

There are some misconceptions and hype around current education reform. Here's what one teacher has to say about it.

Education has been in the cross hairs for decades, though perhaps not in such a polarized way as in the last ten years. The post-Sputnik government report A Nation at Risk, turned a fierce light on public education in the U.S., and particularly on STEM education. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math; the core components of what many, particularly in the governance and businesses worlds, believe are central to our continued success as a nation. In fact, a more recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations did a rehash of that 1983 study, declaring that we’re still pretty much screwed as a country because our schools are “broken.”

I want to preface by saying that, even as a teacher, I understand that education needs to change. However, there are a few broad misconceptions that people have, and a few misplaced solutions, for how to address the need for change in education.

Many in the education reform movement target teachers as the source of the weakness in the system. Truthfully, I know some weak teachers. Most of us do. However, I know twenty times as many strong teachers as weak, and despite poor professional support, mediocre pay, and the vilification of their profession by the broader public, they continue to do the work. The job is tough, and that’s why teachers tend to wash out in their first five years. In the state where I teach, Nebraska, the mode for teachers working in education is one year.

Yes, teachers preparation can be reformed and improved, but saying that only the best people should be recruited to teaching is attacking a symptom before you’ve cured the disease. Make teaching a respected and healthy profession. Stop attacking what benefits teachers are able to count on (pension, health insurance) by cutting budgets. Show some respect to the profession that has had, arguably, a more significant impact upon our social and economic welfare compared than any other. When the teaching profession becomes a widely respected and valued profession, you will see the most able individuals entering into it of their own accord.

Furthermore, simply being intelligent and “having” the information does not make you a good teacher. Take some of the most brilliant minds in finance, physics, or mathematics and their students’ test scores will be atrocious. Why? Because having the information is just as important as knowing how to reach a kid. It’s no longer enough to simply deliver it, you have to prod, cajole, intimidate, intellectualize, humor, and ultimately motivate kids into the learning. That requires empathy, work ethic and Ghandi-like reserves of patience.

Finally, a school is no longer just a school. It is a social service; providing meals, behavioral support, guidance, speech pathology, technological and information resource assistance, and a social mandate to equalize one of the most unequal societies in our country in the last 100 years. Yet budgets are cut, teaching continues to be demonized, and public education treated as a kind of venture capital whipping boy. Amidst all of this, teachers, administrators, and education professionals must figure out how to adequately train and educate children for jobs that don’t even exist yet; for a future that will be more radically different when they graduate than when they entered Kindergarten than any generation that is currently making the decisions.

“Evolution is hooey!”

Find out how conservatives are controlling our public schools’ textbooks.

As a homeschooler, I could write for days about why I choose not to send my daughter to public school. The main reason, of course, is something Winston Churchill could have told you decades ago—that schools do not have much to do with education. One of the smaller, but nonetheless disturbing, reasons is our biased curriculum selected by only a few conservative people in the country—which only continues to worsen.

Just last year we learned about how evolution was to be removed from many science tests, just as the importance of Reagan as the ultimate hero was to be expanded in history books. But why does the Texas State Board of Education have so much say when it comes to local history books all across the rest of the country?If you guessed money, you guessed right. The New York Review of Books recently released a report about how this very conservative, very Christian group of people is in charge of what so many of our children receive as factual knowledge in the classroom—texts that they are often discouraged to question, if they are even inclined to; by the time they are in junior high, most children know to sit, docile and quiet, as information is hurled at them to memorize and be tested over. They do not ask questions, nor think critically, as they were born doing; why would they, when it’s not on the test and it only aggravates many teachers who also must teach to these tests?

This group of conservatives is elected by a very tiny group of voters, and funded by a very wealthy pool of people with connections and vested interests in keeping the youth of our country of a conservative, narrow mind—hence, their handpicked board members are inclined to continue making changes, hacking away at the history of women and Native Americans and people of color and basically anyone who might harm this very specific agenda.

One supposed expert consulted for the remaking of history books was a Minuteman militia man, who openly admitted to first making sure books adequately covered both Christianity and Reagain’s heroism as their basis. 

Some other distressing textbook cuts include the New Deal, hotlines for suicide prevention, and the term “gay.” Many are mandated to not include evolution as a proven fact, but only as a “theory,” and even then, side-by-side with creationist beliefs. It should also be noted that other states have done similar actions—yet Texas’s remain most disturbing, since they impact many other states’ textbooks as well.


The New College Education

New trends in higher education represent a significant shift in the way that we think about and use college.

There has been a tectonic shift in the importance, benefit, and students of a college education in the past five decades. College has never been more important to career stability and life-long earning potential, but the benefits are declining with increased unemployment and a ever-increasing pool of eligible candidates to contend with for fewer jobs. Finally, there has also been a reversal in the types of students that enter college, with significantly more women going to school and getting a degree than men. These trends show a vastly different college education evolving in the next several decades, one that will bear little resemblance to what we’ve known.

First of all, the necessity of college is practically a moot talking point. The potential lifetime earnings of a person with a Bachelor’s degree is, on average, nearly twice as high as a person with a high school diploma. Furthermore, unemployment rates among those with a college degree are less than half that of those with a diploma. That’s why people are going to college. The problem is that they’re not staying there, at least not long enough to get the degree. As recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, for the first time in history a majority of the unemployed have attended college. That doesn’t necessarily mean, as some have started to indicate, that college is no longer worth it. It just means that more people are trying to go back (which is typical of a recession), but are unable to stick it out.

The cost of college is the culprit here. College enrollment may be at an all-time high, but the cost of attending is still skyrocketing; increasing well past the rate of inflation going all the way back to 1981, and accelerating even faster within the last several years as states are forced to cut budgets. This means the more people are trying to go back to school, but are dropping out when the debt gets too large to handle. What that leaves the unemployed former student with is both the increased debt load but no increased job prospects. Higher education is increasingly becoming a double edged sword, and compounded by a stagnant economy, it cuts that much deeper.

A college education remains the single best investment one can make toward their future. However, it requires a generation of people, parents and students, that have prepared financially for the increasing costs. Still, if this trend continues there will come a point when the cost outweighs the benefits, and individuals become unlikely to see a return on that investment. At that point, higher education will need to significantly reform in order to survive, because students will stop footing the bill.


Two New Learning Tools

Teach Yourself with “You Should Watch” and “No Excuse List”

Maybe you’re hoping to educate yourself further; many of us are self-described life learners! Maybe you’re looking for a way to teach your child from home (or for a way for your child to teach him or herself). Perhaps you just want something really cool to read or watch every day online. I have two awesome tools to help you do any and all of these things to share with you: the You Should Watch website and the No Excuse List.

Both of these resources were recently shared on one of my homeschooling email lists and I am still visiting them daily, several days later. I’ve even watched a couple of videos more than once! They are entertaining and educating, and you could visit both every day and never be finished browsing through them.

Unplug the TV, or Instead of TV, You Should Watch… is a really cool website where you can visit and get a new video every day about just about any subject material. Today’s video, for example, is a partly animated, mostly narrated (in an entertaining manner) video about The Mongols. These videos, around 10 minutes each, provide a fascinating history that you might have never heard about. The other day, the daily video was about King Masa Musa, whom I had never even heard of. There is so much history—so much of the world—that is simply not covered in our typical classrooms that we can learn so much from. And if you’ve already watched the video, or you just want to see another one, you can click the link below the daily video to see something else.

The No Excuse List was created by someone who thought that if you have access to the Internet, there’s no excuse for you to not learn what you want to learn about. This simple page is a listing of dozens of places online where you can educate yourself by subject. For example, in addition to basic academics, there’s music, computer programming, eBooks, languages, how-to websites, and more! You could find nearly anything and everything you need to learn about whatever you want at this website.

I have added both of these sites to my bookmarks bar and suggest that anyone who needs help navigating the self-education world of the internet do the same. They’re such rich resources that you can revisit time and time again to learn something different every day.

The Pale Horse of Education Reform

Controversial and contrived, Michelle Rhee is pursuing a reform agenda backed by big money and little evidence of success.

The controversial former superintendent of Washington D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee, formed the StudentFirst organization several years ago in an effort to promote school reform. Now, in 2012, she’s consolidated enough celebrity and enough funding to start a national campaign toward education reform. That campaign, according to her, is about, “fighting for kids, and whoever is standing in the way ... we are willing to go up against those folks because we can't maintain the status quo." The “folks,” she’s speaking of are primarily teachers’ unions and the conventional public school system. Her organization is using media and lobbying campaigns, backed by billions of dollars from philanthropists, religious organizations, conservative-backed SuperPACs and business leaders.

Rhee has been an advocate for now well-known education reform agenda, including eliminating teacher tenure, using student achievement to determine teacher compensation, increasing external accountability while decreasing funding, and using charter schools and voucher programs as a way of insuring a quality education for every student. Her views have managed to influence some very powerful people, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation. President Obama’s education initiative The Race to the Top reflected this agenda, as will the reauthorization of the ESEA (currently the No Child Left Behind Act). In fact, even the state legislatures that did not pursue Race to the Top money are pushing agendas that cut school funding and undermine teachers unions. It’s with these conservative Republican governors that Rhee, who is a self-described lifelong Democrat, is primarily working.

At issue is not only the agenda that Rhee promotes, but the partnerships she’s using to promote it. StudentFirst has its own SuperPAC, and although oit will not release official fundraising records, public records reveal a “who’s who” list of billionaire financiers, conservative organizations, and wealthy foundations. Many of these groups have vested interests in privatizing the $900 billion a year public education system. Privatization, however, runs contrary to one of the founding principles of the country and most experts agree that privatization causes massive inequities within the educational system. Although StudentFirst claims to be a bipartisan organization, its relationships and financiers are primarily conservative, and their reform agenda has a distinctly conservative bent.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and although Michelle Rhee and many of her public school supporters may be working toward improving education for all students, the approach is wrong and the implications for the future could be devastating. Allowing any privatization of schools, either through charter schools or for-profit charters management firms, opens to the door to further privatization.

Furthermore, the corporate culture inherent in many of policy reforms that Rhee and StudentFirst promote actually deteriorate the culture in a school. By cutting funding and by depending on external accountability measures to make schools more “efficient,” they are actually dismissing some of the primary functions of a school. Public schools today serve as community centers just as much as educational institutions. A slavish devotion to standardized test scores combined with austerity cuts to state education budgets will only result in standardized test assembly lines, and extract the human and community components inherent in public schools.