Last week, something astonishing happened in Maplewood: fifth grade students sat quietly and attentively for 55 minutes as Maria Joyce of the Protocol School of New Jersey taught them about continental dining and table manners.
As she instructed them on the use of their napkins, Ms. Joyce explained that napkins should only be opened once placed on the lap but, “Don’t look down!” Instead, Ms. Joyce instructed the students to pretend as if the napkin were a secret package that they were opening.
The students learned how sit at the table, where to place their hands, how to properly hold their utensils, the correct way to eat their bread rolls, and how to sip soup from the bowl of their spoon. The lesson went well beyond please and thank you: Joyce told the students that it is not appropriate to criticize the host’s food or ask for seconds.
The lesson, paid for by the Seth Boyden PTA, is a complement to the Dancing Classrooms Program that Seth Boyden fifth graders have enjoyed for the past five years. Dancing Classrooms, which is offered through the NJPAC Arts Education In-School programs, brings professional dance instructors into schools to teach fifth graders how to dance the foxtrot, tango, merengue, swing and more. All Seth Boyden fifth graders participate.
The students will have a chance to show off their new etiquette skills at a formal dinner before their Dancing Classrooms evening performance on Dec. 18 — and, of course, every night at their own dinner tables.