Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? Try Common Courtesy.

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There’s been a lot of wonderful events to celebrate and appreciate when I look back on 2013, but now it’s 2014 and as everyone has decided THIS is the year they’re going to lose weight, and hey, an awesome goal, but I think we all can tack another goal onto our list of resolutions/life reformations: Common Courtesy/Tact.  I feel the reason why this topic can’t leave my brain when I decided what my next blog post would be (I’m trying to write more in 2014), is because while out and about when shopping for my son’s Christmas presents last month, I saw an abundance of common courtesy offenders.  There were days where I felt surrounded by annoying juvenile behavior…but yet I was surrounded by adults.  Here are some obvious (yet it doesn’t feel like they’re practiced enough) offenses we should all try to avoid:

Category #1 = Volume Issues

* Don’t make your children’s problems everyone else’s problems when in public.  I’ve seen moms and dads verbally rip their toddlers/kids apart and I don’t question their parenting pre-scream, because every child goes through the Terrible 2’s and Horrible 3’s or teen angst/attitude.  It’s when I see parents screaming at their child to “Stop screaming!” that I think, “You’re hypocritically adding to the noise pollution, and you’re the adult in this scenario.”  Get at the child’s level, tone it down, and try to make your public situation as private as possible.  Trust me, no one around you will be put-out if you can deescalate the issue yourself.  They’ll quietly/silently thank you for it.

* On the flip side, there are also times when friendly shouting is unnecessary.  Like if someone can’t hear you even when you’re shouting….continuing to shout isn’t a means to an end, so again walk up to the person and start using that lovely indoor voice.  Most of the time your volume isn’t registering in their ears, because there isn’t mutual eye contact.  Get close to those lovely side holes and talk at a normal register, or if you’re argument is, “But they REALLY CAN’T hear me—they’re old, those darn ineffective hearing aids, etc.” Then good grief, just write it down.

*In my old neighborhood I had great neighbors and I had neighbors that were loud!  The latter never exited their cars to knock on a door; it was instead a constant of honking, loud swearing, hyperactive dogs barking, stereo’s blasting, etc. You can get just as much accomplished in your life without trashing up the atmosphere with noise rather than worthy words/audio. Same goes for the classroom. For example: If your neighboring teacher is giving a test (because it’s FINAL EXAM DAY) then probably not a good time to show a movie with surround sound.

Category #2 – Space

*Respect other people’s space, whether if you’re in their home, classroom, or out in public and standing next to them.  Even if you’re at someone’s house and they’re not the tidiest, that still doesn’t give you permission to be messy or to add to the mess.  If you plan on not taking it with you, and it’s not a gift, it better find it’s way into a trash bin, courtesy of your doing, before you leave that location.  Don’t spill something and then walk away, it is your job not to add to the stain museum that may or may not already exist.  I’m amazed at how people see something fall from their plate, and walk away as if the invisible dog (that’s obviously not there) licked it up for you, WHEN IT CLEARLY DIDN’T!   I will take this time to acknowledge that my CAPS might be a contradiction of the whole “not shouting thing”, but there’s no audible noise attached to it, so, yeah, there’s my retort:).

*Don’t complain about the temperature in the room.  Start wearing layers.  I have had students complain about the oven I teach in the second they walk into the room.  I remind them that I can’t control it; I’m in here for 7 hours instead of 90 minutes at a time, and that no one hears me complaining about it, I just turn on a fan.  I also have students that are self-sufficient.  For every warm room in my school building, there’s cold rooms too.  How do they solve the problem?  They don’t whine.  They bring a blanket for those specific classes and move on with life.  Genius.  And never, NEVER change the thermostat if you’re not paying the utility bill yourself or it’s part of your rental plan.

*Double-parking.  Yeah, yeah, there are some lines/establish spaces that were painted/measured before mammoth trucks and SUV’s were built, but if you can’t maneuver your beast, then get a jelly bean on wheels and park your automobile between the lines.  And for those of you that back into reverse so you can peel out of that children’s piano recital as quickly as humanly possible, only do it if there aren’t cars behind you or if you can miraculously back it in, in one attempt (and those of you that can, I’m envious).  Holding up the line for that high-maintenance move is kind of lame.

Category #3 – Table Manners

Let’s get to it: 1). Don’t talk with food in your mouth; 2) Use a napkin (cloth/paper, not tongue); 3) Don’t touch food that you’re not going to eat; 4). If the food is meant to be eaten with a fork or spoon, then use the utensils; 5) When in doubt, if you can cut it with a knife and a knife is provided then don’t eat it with your hands; 6) Don’t take thirds of something until people have had an opportunity to have seconds;  and 7). Don’t critique children’s table manners (they’re still learning) if you’re a slob at the table yourself.

Category #4 – Contribute

*Basically, stop being lazy/make excuses.  Don’t expect other people to do something for you.  Don’t volunteer others to do something you’re fully capable of doing yourself.  One of my classroom rules has always been, “If you volunteer someone else against their will, you have just volunteered yourself.” Ask them first.  I’ve always told my son, you can ask them, but they can say, “No” and that’s okay.  That’s why you, “Have to have a Plan B (and C, and D)” another one of my classroom mottoes as well.

*If you sense there’s a problem, then fix it.  Some of you might be thinking, “Well, Laura, you’re voicing the problem, and not being a part of the solution.”  And to that I argue that posting on a blog, not anonymously, blurting out everything that’s been bothering me over the years about lack of common courtesy is doing something about it. Trust me, I’ve bit my tongue and rolled my eyes without saying anything for a LONG TIME (whether professionally, personally, or publicly) Let’s just get this out in the open shall we? I realize I’m taking a risk by burning bridges and/or making a lot of people in my life paranoid, wondering “Is she talking about ME?”, but I can guarantee you if you possess the ability to self-reflect prior to reading this post, and you consider yourself an ambitious person, then you’re probably not a frequent offender. I try to lead by example as best I can and I hope we can all be more respectful, kind and courteous to our friends, family, and strangers.

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