School's decorum forum; Manners: A nine-week after-school course at Mayfield Woods Middle School covers dining skills and etiquette for about 20 children


Mayfield Woods Middle School children haven't really had noodles in their noses, but that's the name of the nine-week after-school class about 20 have participated in since January.

Assistant Principal Vaughn Bradley says the purpose of "Noodles in Your Nose! Yuk!" is to teach schoolchildren dining skills and tips for public speaking.

"Learning proper etiquette can improve on behavior at school, which is a target concern here," Bradley said. "It allows students to think of others' feelings -- like if someone is sitting in a chair, asking to use it instead of just plopping into it."

The class has met every Thursday afternoon at the Elkridge school for 1 1/2 hours and ends tomorrow at a Columbia restaurant. Carol Haislip of the International School of Protocol, LLC, based in Washington, has directed the class. She said the children usually have negative comments at first.

"By the end of the first class, 99 percent of the children are won over," Haislip said.

Sujithra Sampath, 12, said it was her father's idea to have her take the class because he wanted her to have the good manners that he was not taught as a child.

"I've learned how to use a fork, drink soup, how to excuse myself, and I do this when we go to a restaurant now," she said. "I've even taught my 8-year-old brother."

Haislip divides the class into two programs. Social etiquette lasts five weeks and includes discussions on proper introductions and greetings, communication and interviewing skills, behavior in public places and acts of kindness.

The other part, dining skills, focuses on place settings, styles of dining, eating and proper behavior at the dinner table. Haislip organizes activities for each topic to get the children involved.

"I'm opposed to lecture and I try to not talk at the children," Haislip said. "I want it to become a hands-on learning event."

Haislip acknowledges that the middle school children might not immediately benefit from what they learn because they don't understand its importance. But eventually they will.

"It's important to know the rules of life," Haislip said. "It gives you an edge over the next person applying for a job."

Ari Dennis, 14, said he understands why he needs to use the skills taught in the class.

"I want to learn how to be a gentleman to please my future company," he said. "When I go to college, it's important to have proper manners."

Shannon Korink, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Mayfield Woods, has been observing Haislip's class to provide help.

"At first I wasn't sure how it would go because [Haislip] is proper and formal, but the kids enjoyed her," Korink said.

Principal Susan Griffith said the school works with Howard County Recreation and Parks to organize after-school programs. Most of the classes are taught by teachers who have skills they want to share, but some are taught by people outside the school.

More after-school classes will be offered this month. They include field hockey, filmmaking, MESA (mathematics, engineering, science, achievement), Superstars Math Matters, ceramics, wrestling and a "theatrix" drama workshop.

Schoolchildren and parents may obtain application forms at Mayfield Woods' office. Additional costs accompany some classes, but Bradley said scholarships for those whith financial difficulty are available.

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