When I was about 10, I had a birthday party. One of the boys at the party was called Jeffrey and I don’t know who it was that saw him but someone in my family watched him put his hand into a bowl containing the pineapple chunks and eat a fistful. Thereafter ‘Jeffery the pineapple snatcher!‘ became part of the folklore of my family. Unknown to poor Jeffrey he became famous for years in our family. I’m sure that many families have a story of another child’s inexplicable behaviour.
It was all very funny but underlying it I suspect was a real sense of outrage. Young Jeffrey by his actions had crossed a red line. The red line was about how you are supposed to behave in somebody else’s home. It reminds you about how etiquette is important because it makes our lives bearable. It’s also about being respectful to others as you negotiate your way through life.
I heard today that a class of Californian 4-year-olds were talking to their kindergarten teacher with a kind of directness and rudeness that the teacher had never experienced from any other class in her long career. And then they realised that all these kids came from a home that had an Alexia in it. Their up-to-then connection between learning, asking questions and discovering had been with a virtual machine – they were just continuing the process.
We’ve all had to learn please and thank you. It oils the wheels of social interaction. And it’s quite complex. Those of us who drive can sense the real person inside the cars around us. What do we think of those who zip up the motorway passing everyone on the inside and going to the front of the queue – or those who drive in the outside lane at 70 mph as if they have been given the job of controlling the speeds of those behind them. Or what about those drivers who could let you out of your side road but when they draw level with you unaccountably find something very important happening dead ahead? These drivers lack the social respect we’d like to see in others.
There has been a tradition in some ballet classes that the class ends with the entire class taking a step to the left, bowing or deeply curtsying and saying, “Thank you Miss Whatever.” I think that’s a rather lovely tradition. We don’t do it at Theatretrain (maybe we should!) but it reminds the class of the time and trouble that the teacher took with their preparation and work with the class. Not being a ballet teacher has meant that this has only occasionally happened to me and then it was individuals, but wow is it pleasing. You get the sense that the pupil was genuinely grateful and inspired by what you did. Either that or they wanted a higher mark – let’s not forget that we are human after all.
If you had the chance right now to thank a teacher, who would it be? The best ones really gave you something that you have carried with you and I’m not sure that Alexia is yet ready for that level of gratitude!
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