Teaching manners and proper paparazzi behavior

Written by Karen Murray

Students readily understand the power of having a camera in hand. They see that it can make people do one of three things: hide, mug, or go on with their business but direct their activity to the camera. I teach my students that with power comes a responsibility to be above reproach at all times. To this end, my students are given lessons in manners and protocol when out of the class and on assignment.

Students role-play in class to better understand how manners can affect their ability to get the story. I present a scenario, and groups are asked to write down how they would handle the situation. This opens up the opportunity to identify the students pre-existing manners and conflict-resolution skills. This lesson is repeated frequently during the first quarter, and then twice a quarter thereafter.

Lesson one, on the second day of school, is, “The teacher is the king or queen of their classroom, and what they say, goes.” I give scenarios to the students, and ask them what they would do:

  1. Teacher sees you in the door, but will not let you in.
  2. Teacher is annoyed once you are in the classroom and tells
    you to get out.
  3. Teacher takes your camera, and tells you to delete their
  4. Teacher yells at you for snapping a picture when they were
    about to say something to the class.
  5. Teacher says negative things about yearbook and photographers.
  6. Teacher does not want you to cover their class anymore because it is disruptive, since students are mugging instead of taking notes.

The students must answer in a non-defensive, politically correct, mannerly way, and we work the questions until all groups understand the proper way to handle a sticky situation. We role-play, and I play the part of a cantankerous teacher, who the students must win over.

Manners are explicitly taught. While we discuss the magic words — please, thanks, may I — most importantly demeanor and tone of voice are taught. The final part of the lesson entails teaching the students damage control. They are taught to be complimentary, professional, apologetic and extremely nice when dealing with teachers — especially if the teacher does not want them in the classroom with a camera. They are challenged to use manners to win over a teacher who may act as a nemesis to the program.

It is not easy for students ages 11-14 to see outside their frame of reference, but the lessons in manners do work to help them hold their tongue when they really want to give a teacher a piece of their mind, and to continue doing their job.

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Karen Murray