The students watched “The Nutcracker” at the Tivoli Theatre and ate at Olive Garden at Hamilton Place Mall, all the while observing the rules of etiquette they reviewed in class.
Students are accompanied on the trip by their teacher Valerie Hunt and Principal Matthew Korp.
“It’s neat to watch them learn to be more aware of others in a public setting, to put other people’s needs first above their own,” Korp said.
The idea originated with a previous principal who brought the concept from his old school. Now, Hunt organizes the trip.
Originally, the trip was a one-day crash course in specific elements of etiquette in a semiformal setting. Now, Hunt has expanded the etiquette preparation to include role-playing and information for a week before the event.
“We talk about conversation skills. We talk about dinner etiquette,” Hunt said. “I explain to them [the girls] there are women, and there were women when I was growing up — it was women’s rights and women’s lib ... you did not let a guy open a door if you were one of those women. … I said, ‘Ladies, this does not mean he is saying you’re weak. It’s him saying you’re better than I am. It’s a humbling of himself to say you are more important than I am right now, not that you can’t do this yourself’... so when you view it that way it’s a whole different ballgame, and courtesy really becomes the Golden Rule: Treat other people as you want to be treated.”
Each boy is paired with a girl for him to escort throughout the trip.
“You have to hold on to your partner’s elbow and they escort you around. In Olive Garden, they have to pull out your seat for you, then you sit in it, and they have to push it back in,” student Kylie Burgess said. “If they get their drink first and they [ordered] the same drink ... they have to pass it to you.”
Each year it alternates as to who draws the names of partners. This year all the girls’ names were put in a cup and each boy picked out a name.
Since the students in the class were not evenly divided, students Isaac Plata and Chase Roesel had to escort the same girl.
“One of us would open the door while the other one would hold her arm,” Isaac said.
“It was kind of awkward in small doorways,” Chase said.
Student Dyaine Falkenhagen said she was nervous about the trip at first, but as it progressed she became more relaxed.
“My favorite was the Tivoli because it’s like, well for me, once in a lifetime to go to a place like that and experience something like that,” student Katie Lassiter said.
Erin and Dyaine also enjoyed seeing their first ballet during the trip.
“I didn’t know what to expect, so it was a good experience,” Hunter said.
Some aspects of the project were challenging for the students.
“I think the hardest part is when we had to twirl the spaghetti,” student Joshua Zamerano said of proper dining guidelines. “We had to twirl the spaghetti and we couldn’t have any long pieces hanging down.”
Students Elise Watts and Gabe Willis each said they enjoyed the restaurant more than the ballet because they were able to interact with the other students rather than just watching the performance.
“You talk to your partner most, but you can talk to everybody,” Elise said.
The students agreed having a more talkative partner makes the trip more enjoyable.
Kylie and Erin Dicks said they had a difficult time talking to their escorts more than the others at the table because the others were more talkative.
Dyaine said she tends to be a quiet person, so the conversational part was somewhat challenging.
Gabe said he tried to start conversation with his partner by asking if she had enjoyed the ballet.
Many of the boys said they enjoyed going to Olive Garden better than watching the ballet.
Helping the girls off the bus was one of the most difficult parts of the trip, according to some of the boys. Some said they offered, but the girls did not want the help.
Timothy McCulloch said he had some difficulty keeping up with his partner’s fast stride, while Isaac and Chase said their partners walked a lot slower than they did.
Erin said it was challenging sometimes to let the boys do all of the aspects required of an escort for this class trip.
“Some of the manners and stuff are things that you would do a long time ago, but you probably wouldn’t do now,” Erin said. “So it might be a little embarrassing.”
Following proper table etiquette was challenging for Jordan Thompkins because her right arm was in a cast. She said her escort helped her with some things.
Being constantly escorted and having to hold onto the boy’s arm is an aspect of etiquette the girls are fine living without. However, the students agreed more people should use good table manners and be polite.
“I think more people need to use etiquette,” Timothy said.
The boys said there were some younger students at “The Nutcracker” who were talking and laughing, disrupting the show.
“I think it (etiquette) is important because not a lot of people have it any more,” student Hunter Lane said.
He said showing respect to others is a good way to get respect.
“Etiquette … most of it is just plain common sense,” Timothy said.
The class also discussed the history of certain elements of etiquette, such as why the man walks on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street before the field trip.
“It’s protection,” Hunt said. “The guy is humbling himself to say you are important enough to protect.”
The goal of the trip is not to have students study a list of rules, but to become more considerate of everyone.
“Ideally, they become more conscious of other people, wherever they are,” Hunt said. “That’s really our goal, that their courtesy improves at home, that it improves wherever they are.”
Hunt said etiquette is really about humility.
“The girl, by accepting the guy’s hand, is actually doing him a favor in allowing him to humble himself,” Hunt said. “When they were in their high heels they began to understand the need for having an arm… you begin to see that there was a reason for that … back when these things were instituted.”
She said she was proud of her students in the Tivoli when her students stopped to wait for some elderly women crossing the lobby.
“The whole thing was about respecting others and not paying attention to yourself, because if you are doing all this, you’re doing it for the other person,” Erin said.
Students miss an entire day of school for the trip. However, grades for the day are given based on how well the students followed the etiquette rules the class had reviewed. Students grade their partners and the teacher takes these critiques in mind when determining grades.
Wyndham Reams said grading his partner was difficult because she did some of the things on the grading rubric only part of the time they were on the trip.
“We want to give them credit, ’cause they at least tried,” Wyndham said.
Hunt said she takes the students’ comments into consideration. Yet, she does not use this as the partner’s final grade because a student’s grade could be biased on how much he or she likes a particular student.
This is the sixth year for the annual trip and the groups have had the same waitress every year.