Mind Your Manners!
from The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

Mind your manners is something I say to my students to quickly gain their attention. They know those words mean, "Behave!"

As the teacher, I have to be ready to steer the ship quickly – to avoid a variety of potential shipwrecks.

Let's face it...

Sometimes it’s difficult to ignore certain behaviors in the classroom that SHOULD BE IGNORED.

What is the Correct Way to Say It?

Today, I was with a group of first graders at the Reading table whenever I heard a commotion in the center of the classroom.

Ema said, “Ooooo, I’m going to tell!”

Instead of coming over to whisper to me, she boldly announced, “Teacher, somebody let out the cheese!”

Martin looked up from his reader and said, “Let out the cheese? … What does THAT mean?”

Before I could avoid the shipwreck, Stevie yelled, “P.U.! You mean somebody CUT the cheese!”

“No!” Ema reiterated, “Let OUT the cheese!”

“No way!” Martin interjected. “Stevie’s right. It’s CUT the cheese. CUT the cheese!”

“Shhhh!” I demanded. “Mind your manners!

Everyone froze, then turned around slowly, and looked at me.

And just as Bill Cosby has said, "They had the nerve to look surprised."

I had their full attention now...

So - for a WHOLE minute – I said not a word.

At last, ever-so-softly, I said, “Whose turn to read?” and sat down.

I mean, there are SOME things that are just not worth debating.

Right? Come on! Would that have advanced society in any way?

What IS an Emergency?

If there’s an emergency, the first graders know they may tell me even if they ARE in line. Otherwise, when they’re in line, they should wait.

But here’s the thing…

First graders think that EVERYTHING is an emergency. So WHAT IS - or IS NOT – an emergency is a concept that primary-level teachers must teach AND reteach.

Today, the students were lined up and coming out of the Music room. Martin stepped from the trailer into the fresh air, gasping for breath. “MAN!” he said. “Now, Teacher, that’s GOT TO BE A ‘MERGENCY!”

He pointed behind himself to the Music room. “It STINKS up in thar … SOMEBODY loosed their manners all over the place!

"Excuse Me" 

Although the first graders don’t fully understand why they must be quiet during tests, we still teach them the correct procedure...

Today, Amy, who is a soft-spoken, gentle child with impeccable manners - for her age – surprised me...

She was talking to Michael during our Spelling test.

I told her, “Remember, there's no talking during a test.”

“It’s okay,” she reassured me. “I’m not talking ‘bout Spelling.“ She motioned for me to lean over closer to her. Then, she whispered ever so politely, “I HAD to tell him, Skews me cause I farted.“

Leave me Alone!

At Recess, Ben dashed over to me fussing, “Teacher, somebody pooted. And it won’t stop coming over to my place!”

I admit it. I egged him on. “Your place?

“Yeah,” he cried. “I go find me a NEW place, but it follows me!”

A Bathroom Treasure

My class was lined up in the hall waiting for our turn in the bathrooms...

Suddenly, a little boy ran out of the bathroom hollering his teacher’s name. “Mr. Brell,” he said, “look at this treasure I fount!”

Mr. Brell was speaking to the assistant principal in the hall and didn’t hear him, at first.

The student struggled to drag his discovery toward his teacher. “LOOK!” he said, proudly. “I fount this giant horseshoe in the boys’ bathroom!”

Tommy - who was the leader of my students’ line - couldn’t believe his ears. “Giant horseshoe? That boy don’t know nuttin!”

He shook his head and snickered. “Pshh! EVERYBODY KNOWS that’s a big poo-mode lid!”

Mind Your Manners!


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