Sharpen your pencils, plug in your keyboards – it’s back to school time! To bring in the new year, I was going to share with you something from Gael Greene’s Sex and the College Girl, but it seemed a bit too scholarly for this crowd, with all those statistics about young virgins and loose girls. So instead, here’s some advice for the younger set. This excerpt is from the Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls by the Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls (New York: MacMillan Company, 1923). There’s a whole chapter devoted to classroom manners; I’ve selected a few highlights for you:
The traffic rule, Keep to the right, applies to classrooms as well as to streets and corridors. If you keep to the right, and leave a passageway at your left, you will make entrances and exits easy.
When you enter a classroom go at once to your own seat. Put into your desk everything you will not need for that period. Nothing looks worse than a roomful of desks littered with piles of books, packages of lunch, baseball gloves, and oranges.
Never borrow books, inkwells, pens, or pencils from the teacher’s or a pupil’s desk without asking permission. Never sit in the teacher’s chair unless the chairmanship of the lesson has been given over to you. Never stand close behind a teacher’s desk, except when talking to her. The books and papers on her desk are her private property. You have no more right to examine her papers or read any writing there than you have to read other people’s letters.
Interruptions of any sort are just as rude in the classroom as anywhere else. If you raise your hand while another pupil is reciting, you interrupt him. Often the sight of hands waved madly in the air breaks one’s train of thought and makes it impossible for one to go on. If you wish to ask or answer a question, wait until the one who is reciting has finished and until the teacher recognizes you. Try to break the hand-waving habit.
Never ask a new question until the one perviously asked has been answered. That, too, is an interruption. Do not answer a question addressed to some one else.
If you do correct some one, do it tactfully. It is often the manner in which the correction is made, not the correction itself, that hurts. The one who is corrected should accept the criticism courteously.
Do not make fun of other’s mistakes. To laugh reasonably at an amusing remark or happening is natural, but it is rude and unkind to make a boy or girl feel ridiculous.
At the end of the period, do not gather up your books until the signal for dismissal has been given. Never rattle paper or stand poised for flight while some one is talking.
If you are the first one to leave the room, fasten the door back. If it cannot be fastened, hold it open for the person behind you. He should hold it open for himself as soon as he reaches the door. Doors should never be slammed, but always closed quietly.
Some of these could be useful at the office, now that I think about it.