Back to School Etiquette and Advice

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute
Back to School Etiquette

Teacher Gift Guide
When: At holiday time, during teacher-appreciation week and at the end of the school year, your little one may ask to give a gift to his teacher (or you may suggest it). These are appropriate times to let the teacher know that his efforts are noticed. Don?t give a birthday gift or a gift right before report cards (either of these could be misconstrued as grade grubbing).

What: Give something small, inexpensive and not too personal. Ask your child for suggestions. Teachers receive a box-load of mugs and pictures frames. Think outside the box: stationery, a calendar, a bouquet of fresh or dried flowers, a book or a gift certificate to a book store, a scented candle, desk accessories, delicious treats. If money is an issue, nothing is more appreciated than a hand-made card or painting or drawing with a few heartfelt words of appreciation written by the child.

How: Give discreetly. Just leave the gift on the teacher?s desk or chair with a card.


The manners of school behavior are really the manners basics of most group situations your child will encounter throughout life. During the final halcyon days of summer, work through a manners primer with your children to help them start the new school year on the right track.

Respect Your Teachers: Just like most adults, teachers are more likely to respond to children who are well mannered and respectful.

  • Pay Attention: Encourage your child to listen to instructions, be patient and focus on assigned tasks.
  • The Teacher is the Big Boss: Your child should understand that the teacher is in charge and is responsible for each and every child in the class. Let your child know that you expect her to follow instructions at school just as she does at home.
  • "Yo, Mrs. P.!" Doesn?t Cut It: By age six, a child should be able to remember and use teachers? names appropriately. Addressing teachers and administrators by their proper names is polite and respectful. Some schools advocate children using teachers? first names: if this is the standard at your school, go with it.
  • Raise You Hand In The Air! Review the long-established (and very successful!) hand-raising technique. Tell your child that just getting up and moving around the class is distracting to the teacher and the other students. Whenever lessons are being presented, your child must stay seated and raise his or her hand if help is needed.
  • It?s a Line Not a Party: When children have been sitting for a long time, lining up to go outside is a welcome diversion. This is often a time when children move their bodies around and chatter. Be clear with your child that he is to follow the teacher?s instructions and be quiet and thoughtful of others ? no pushing, shoving, hair pulling, cutting, changing places or yelling to their best friend or at their arch nemesis.
  • Clean up, Clean up: Let your child know that you expect her to help with classroom cleanup. Talk about all the things her teacher has to do and ask her to think of ways she can help: putting used papers in the recycling and garbage in the can; placing books back on the shelf; art supplies back in their bins; jacket hung up in her cubby.

The Bread and Butter of Manners: Please and Thank You. "Please" and "Thank You" are still the magic words they've always been, and you will be doing your child a favor if you insist that she use them until they become a habit. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and "Thank You" is the accepted way of showing appreciation. "Please" can turn a demand into a request and indicates an option?it can turn an unpopular request into a more palatable one.

Greetings: Teach your children, as soon as they are old enough to understand, to greet people by name. Learning early on to look someone in the eye with a smile and say "Hello, Mr. Stein"?instead of "Hi" mumbled at the ground?is a valuable lesson for the future.

Cafeteria Manners: School lunches are short affairs accompanied by general chaos and a lack of volume control, but children can still be taught to use the following manners: use utensils when appropriate (this is not an opportunity for them to eat orange mac & cheese with their fingers); chew with mouth closed (no matter how tempting the "See Food" joke is); don?t speak when their mouths are full; and use napkins (not their sleeves).

Interrupting: Teach your child not to interrupt: her teacher, her classmates, a classroom guest. This is part of learning to respect other people's rights. It is up to you to teach your child to wait for a break in the conversation to speak.

Fair Play: Fair play among children is really just good sportsmanship and respect for others. It includes the practice of kindness, taking turns and sharing. One of the best ways to teach fair play is by example. Parents who take turns, treat their children with kindness and share with others will be teaching their children fair play, just by their actions.

Out and About: Children need to learn that good manners are used everywhere, not just at their grandparents?. Table manners, please and thank you, polite greetings, and respectful conversation are called for at home, at school (even in the cafeteria!), at friends' homes, in restaurants, and in the mall. If children learn to make good manners a habit at home, they will use them everywhere.

About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
Read to find out more about Emily Post Institute and the Etiquette Experts

International Delivery