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Good manners part of a good education system

BISS realizes that the ethos of a school is critical and has spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure a culture of healthy mutual respect and disciplined behavior, reports Michael Embley.

A critical aspect of a student's time at school which is often overlooked by parents when choosing a school, is the ethos which the school engenders in its pupils.

While it is easy to look at class size, pupil to teacher ratios and even academic grades, the way in which the students behave is difficult for parents to assess in a short time.

But even though this element of a school's culture can be difficult to assess, it is just as important to a child's well-being and happiness, and indeed future success, as those other areas of a school's life which are sometimes given sole attention.

The British International School Shanghai realizes that this issue is critical and has spent a great deal of time and effort to ensure a culture of healthy mutual respect and disciplined behavior. Students greet teachers in the corridors with "Good morning Mr Embley" and the teachers respond in kind. When an adult enters a classroom the students stand as a mark of respect.

Of course in return the students are greeted in kind.

Other aspects of this culture of social graces are seen in the dining hall where students' table manners are monitored and older students assist younger students with their food and eating habits.

Attention to the details of uniform is at times seen as stifling by some students but in time comes to be seen as a matter of pride and belonging.

These might seem at first glance to be small things but as any parent will know, consistent high expectations coupled with guidance and a feeling of safety are crucial in the proper development of any child.

Engendering a well-behaved and socially adept student body has direct consequences for the school as a whole. Students pick up the habits of those around them very quickly and if those role-models display poor behavior this can quickly spread, leading otherwise well-mannered children down a path to less desirable consequences.

Of course all of these feed back into the academic life of a school. Teachers who are not spending many hours dealing with petty or even not-so-petty matters of discipline or respect can focus their energies on inspiring young minds and helping students achieve.

As mentioned earlier it is not only the students who are expected to take up this behavioral pattern of respect and good manners. The teaching and administration staff of the school have a role in modeling this behavior and setting a good example. It is vital that all staff are committed to upholding the values of the school and demonstrating these to the pupils at all times.

In these modern times it's important to note that these values are not aimed at stifling creativity or marking a return to some of the less pleasant "children should be seen and not heard" attitudes of the past. Children can be encouraged to thrive and do, in fact, feel more secure in a compassionate, structured, pleasant atmosphere of simple good manners and behavior. Some traditional behaviors are worth maintaining and adapting to serve the student in the world today.

These might include the new "netiquette" and Web-safety issues that students must now become aware of. The idea that children today are born knowing how to use the Internet and how to stay safe while online is patently untrue. Also the idea that there are no social norms to be respected while online is also false. Having a careful eye on these matters is vital for the safety and development of the children in our care as they learn to use these vital tools.

The approach to the ethos of a school is a holistic one almost by its definition. It is one that must be nurtured by all staff and parents and students. It is one to which a little attention must be given every day and it is, ultimately, the difference between a school which merely educates the children in its care and one which, like BISS Nanxiang, guides and cares for them while they make the sometimes difficult journey toward finding a confident, successful and happy place in the world.


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