Q. We have a son in junior high. His class is going on a school trip after the Christmas holidays. I have agreed to be one of the chaperones. We will be traveling by bus, spending two nights at a hotel. We will have a meeting soon at the school to go over the details.
I have never done this before, but I have been in on trips with my own family and have seen lots of groups of kids. I'm beginning to ask myself what can I expect and hope I have a group of well-mannered students. From a manners perspective, could you give me a few guidelines I can take with me to the meeting? I want all of us to have a good time, but I don't want to wind up being thrown "under the bus" by not being prepared for this adventure.
A. Yes, chaperoning a group of junior high students is not only a serious responsibility, but the trip should be full of fun memories for everyone. No doubt, the school administration will provide you and the students with a list of specific rules, which each chaperones will be responsible for enforcing.
Even though the school administrators may discuss the rules with the students and chaperones as a whole, I suggest you have a separate discussion with just the students in your group prior to getting on the bus. Explain or reiterate the proper manners and behavior you expect them to display throughout the trip.
* They listen, when you speak to them. You do not want to be yelling over their voices to try to get their attention or give them directions. You may want to consider some simple signal to get your group's attention. It could be as simple as a little metal cricket that you click twice to tell them to stop what they are doing and focus on you and listen. Whether on a bus or in the lobby of a hotel or restaurant or museum, or waiting in line, two clicks will not disturb other nearby individuals who are not a part of your group. Absolute quiet should be the result from your students.
* Inside voices are required when inside. That includes the bus, the hotel room, the restaurant, etc. If speaking voices can be heard outside the door of your hotel room, or the TV, it is too loud and will disturb other occupants.
* Outside voices do not include yelling or screaming!
* Respect for each other and all members of the group, as well as everyone they meet, is an absolute must. For example, stand to the side of the elevator to allow those already on the elevator to exit before attempting to enter the elevator. Say "please" and "thank you" when speaking to a waiter or waitress or a tour guide or the bus driver. Hold up your hand to ask a question of the tour guide. Politely wait for your turn. The time designated for lights out means exactly that and no leaving the hotel room to go to another room. No running in hotel hallways. No slamming of hotel room doors. No riding up and down the elevators just for fun. Theses, by the way, are some of the most common complaints from other hotel occupants.
* Respect for another's property is an absolute must! That means no jumping on the bed, or putting your feet on the couch with your shoes on,. No eating someone else's candy. No leaving your dirty clothes on the floor in the hotel room you share with others instead of placing them in your suitcase. Not moving a roommate's suitcase or clothes without permission.
* Inappropriate or disrespectful language is not be tolerated at any time.
* There will be no whining, complaining or bickering permitted.
* Proper table manners are expected at all times. Each utensil has its designated purpose and should be used for that purpose. Fingers are not to be licked; use napkins.
* Cell phone usage: If the school administration does not provide rules on this subject for the trip, the chaperones need to establish them. The rules should include: no cellphone conversations on elevators, escalators, sidewalks, hallways, inside museums, gift shops. No texting during tours, movies, lectures or when instructions are being provided by chaperones or anyone else in authority, etc.
I hope what I have provided will begin to prepare you for your meeting and for establishing your final list of behavior rules for polite young ladies and young gentlemen.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.