Nearly 200 seventh graders walked the red carpet at Hilmar Middle School Wednesday and it wasn’t just their dashing attire that caught the eyes of onlookers, but their unmistakable grasp of proper etiquette. Whether it was knowing where to place their utensils at the dinner table or showing off on the dance floor, these seventh graders proved just how well they perfected their table manners and more during the school’s 20th annual Etiquette Day.
“It’s awesome that our community backs this kind of an event and realizes that their children need to be successful not only in academics, but in all kinds of ways, whether it’s social or emotion,” said retired science teacher Debbie Towe, who helped organize the event for about 15 years. “This is just one of those great events where the teachers, students, parents, everybody comes together. It’s pretty special.”
During Wednesday’s lunch, seventh grader Autumn Pangilinan said she enjoyed learning how to use the right utensils and mastering different ballroom dances, however, her favorite part was how the “guys learned what they are supposed to do for girls.”
“My favorite part was walking to our table and sitting down because the gentlemen were more gentlemen-like,” said Pangilinan with a smile.
Pangilinan was escorted to her seat by her peer Emmett Carter, who said that his favorite part about the etiquette lessons was learning about customs and manners from different countries and cultures.
“It was cool to learn how different countries tolerate manners,” said Carter. “Like, in Japan they are allowed to slurp their food!”
Hilmar Middle School’s first Etiquette Day was held in 1997 after teachers planned and worked together to create a lesson in which students learned proper etiquette and behavior in social settings.
“We felt that there was a need with our students that we were seeing in how they were behaving,” said Towe. “We felt that this was something that would be very positive for later on in their lives.”
Towe said Wednesday’s lunch was the culmination of three to four weeks of etiquette lessons students received during their regular classes. In their Language Arts and history classes, they learned about RSVP cards, correspondence, the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, restaurant vocabulary, and customs from other countries and cultures. Proper table settings, mealtime manners, how to tie a tie and napkin folding were covered in their elective classes, while taxes and tips were taught in math class. Students even got the opportunity to learn a variety of dances with an emphasis on ballroom dancing in their PE classes.
Hilmar Middle School’s seventh graders were not the only ones practicing their etiquette as eighth graders in the school’s Where Everybody Belongs program lent a helping hand during the lunch as waiters and waitresses. One such eighth grader was Larynne Holland, who reflected on the etiquette she learned last year.
“When I go to restaurants I am very self-conscious, so this all really helped me,” said Holland.
As for Pangilinan and Carter, both seventh graders said that they appreciated all of the work that went into Wednesday’s Etiquette Day.
“This helps us be more appropriate and I think it will help in the future,” said Pangilinan.
“It’s important because when we get older we have to use all of this at least once in our life,” added Carter. “I only hope to get better.”