I was always told that manners cost nothing, and yet I have discovered they can enrich your life in so many positive ways. From a young age I was instilled with the importance of good manners and respect and I always found they have served me well in all that I do.
I have been fortunate to see much of the world and one enduring international expectation of British people relates to their manners. This is something that always makes me smile, as I do not believe good manners are something inherent in the British nature. I found there are expectations of manners in all parts of the world. Those expectations may differ but they still exist in every culture and society. At Wellington we understand that many parents expect our children to have impeccable manners, no doubt an expectation linked to our strong English heritage and curriculum. We see this approach as an enhancement to the strongly held Chinese cultural beliefs of respect and honour.
As our children enter an increasingly global world they deserve from us the best introduction into how to be respected themselves. In my experience no one ever dislikes a thank you or a please. Giving up your seat or holding open a door is gratefully accepted. Furthermore the impression that such actions can leave on people is always a positive one. Ultimately you can teach and talk about manners forever, but if a child does not see manners happening around them, people they love and respect using them and indeed are praised for using them themselves they will not see them as a useful or important part of life.
At Wellington our insistence on manners is greatly linked to our own core values of RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITTY, COURAGE, KINDNESS and INTEGRITY. We teach all of these to our youngest children and take every opportunity to model them to all our pupils.
The notion of respect is a universal one. It allows us to show our consideration to those who are older, more educated or facing greater challenges in life. Respect is not limited to one body of people (say children) to another (say adults) it is a concept that should be reflected in all areas of life. I have often told children respect is a two way street. If you give respect, you will find that it is given to you. If you listen to others, they will listen to you.
It is also important that we teach our children that they have a responsibility to society and themselves. Self-discipline is a key skill in life and is much respected in the world outside. In turn we as educators, be us parents or teachers, have a responsibility to show children what we expect from them.
Children also need to understand the importance of courage when it comes to manners. For they may well find themselves amongst people for whom this is not expected behaviour. To remain true to ones own moral beliefs and standing up for what is right takes courage when at times you seem to be standing alone. We must teach children to have confidence in their own beliefs and not to waver from the expectations placed on them, even when familiar people are not around.
Kindness is so often the gesture through which manners are shown. Indeed I have found the most successful way of children understanding this to experience it themselves. To analyse their feelings when someone has thanked them, given them a toy to share or a place to sit allows them to see how they also have the ability to make others feel that way.
Integrity can be hard value for our youngest children to understand. However we seek to explain it simply as if you have all the other values and can look in the mirror and say I am a good person then you have integrity. I cannot think of a parent or teacher who would not look at any child and not wish them to grow into a good person, who brings these values to the world and in return lives a happy and fulfilling life.
Emma Button, Head of Pre-Prep