Beyond “Por Favor” and “Gracias” – Manners and the Latin Culture

In this digital age, where face-to-face contact is minimized by self-service, online ordering, and social media, one might wonder if manners are becoming less relevant. We say no! In fact, at Spanish Schoolhouse, manners are a core part of our identity and program.

At Spanish Schoolhouse, teaching manners comes not only from the curriculum but from the earliest memories of our Spanish-speaking teachers and directors! In Latin countries, the concepts of respect for others, taking pride in one’s personal appearance, greeting and communicating with others respectfully, helping others, and showing gratitude are ingrained in children from an early age. In many Latin countries, elderly grandparents move in with their children and grandchildren, creating multi-generational households. Respect and manners are taught from an early age and help create a harmonious environment as well as a close relationship between grandparents (abuelos) and their grandchildren (nietos). Respect for authority is expected.

Another manner that is very important to Latinos is greetings. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest is expected to acknowledge those they meet with a greeting of hello (Hola or Buenos días) and goodbye (Adios or Nos vemos pronto), often accompanied by a cheek kiss. At Spanish Schoolhouse, warm greetings at the door each day are a treasured part of our culture. Hugs and high-fives help communicate to the children that “We see you and we value you. You are family here.”

Many schools in Latin America incorporate or even drill manners into their teaching. The Manual de Carreño book of manners is a “fond” memory for many of our staff who grew up in Latin countries. This book was the standard reference for accepted etiquette in 20th century Latin America and is still consulted today. It influences the manners curriculum taught at SSH.

In our school, weekly manners (Modales de la Semana) are introduced and discussed during Circle Time. Some may be tied to the theme of the week, such as “Treat animals kindly” during Petting Zoo Days or “Respect our elders” during Grandparents’ Week. The manners are repeated and reinforced throughout the day and help create a positive environment in the classroom.

Parents can find the weekly manners on their child’s calendar each month, but here are a few of the categories which are emphasized throughout the year:

  • Respect – for authority, friends, rules, and our planet
  • Table manners – washing hands before eating, using a napkin, chewing with mouth closed, etc.
  • Communications – good listening skills and inside voices
  • Sharing – taking turns, sharing, and helping others
  • Cleanliness – taking care of materials, the classroom, and ourselves
  • Gratitude – please, thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you!

While we start the year by introducing the magic words, por favor and gracias, these are merely the first building blocks. Teaching manners goes beyond the Latin culture and is a part of our mission of creating thoughtful and global citizens. Politeness and respect are traits that will serve our students well into their future and we are happy to be a partner in laying this foundation during their early childhood years.

So, what do you think?