Discover the Invaluable Skills in Westminster’s Enrichment Program
It’s easy to think of etiquette as something antiquated or irrelevant. As Westminster School’s enrichment program highlights, though, proper etiquette is about showing respect, being appropriate to the situation, and setting yourself apart in personal and professional settings. The Westminster enrichment program addresses an important question: Does etiquette matter today? The Annandale-based private school answers with an enthusiastic yes.
5 Important Life Skills Learned in Westminster’s Enrichment Program
1. How to Dress Appropriately for the Situation
When Westminster School attends a field trip to somewhere more formal, such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the students wear their blazers and ties. When they do something more active, such as a hike or other outdoor activity, they dress in casual athletic wear.
In the enrichment program, students learn not only the nuance of what to wear in different situations but the importance of physically presenting themselves with pride. Even when dressing casually, they’re taught to be cognizant of the impression they give off and how to present themselves in a positive and confident manner.
2. The Importance of First Impressions
Whatever the setting, first impressions matter. The way you look and conduct yourself during those first few crucial moments after meeting can affect how someone views you long after that initial introduction.
Westminster School makes this a point with all the students in daily interactions; however, with its eighth-graders, these concepts become more focused in the special eighth-grade enrichment program. In the class, they discuss, among other things, what kinds of greetings are appropriate for a variety of scenarios. They discuss levels of formality in those different situations, as well as the importance of erring on the side of respect.
For example, in a job interview, a firm handshake with a friendly smile and good eye contact is appropriate. When greeting a friend, that level of formality isn’t necessary. A fist bump or even a hug would be appropriate.
However, some situations are not as clearly defined. When meeting someone for the first time in a relaxed social setting, it’s not always obvious how to proceed. The enrichment program emphasizes the best practice of being more formal rather than more familiar. When unsure, a friendly wave or a quick handshake would be better received than an overly informal greeting.
3. Social Graces
When people consider etiquette, they often think about knowing which fork to use at the dinner table. While dining etiquette is part of the Westminster enrichment program, the high-level takeaway is much deeper.
Employing social graces is about three key things:
- Showing a proper and appropriate amount of respect to the people around you.
- Making everyone feel comfortable in any given situation.
- Setting yourself apart from those who dismiss the importance of social graces.
“It’s an invaluable gift to know how to conduct yourself in certain situations. These thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds get that,” says Nancy Schuler, head of school at Westminster School. “It’s not just about how to set a table for somebody else. It’s about exposing them to social graces and courtesies and all the benefits that come with that.”
4. Interviewing Skills
Today’s business landscape is more relaxed and casual than ever before. With the loosening of traditional work dynamics, more and more people ignore the details. Typos are left in professional communications. Company leaders are addressed by nicknames. Personal appearance in the workplace is deprioritized.
In this kind of environment, impeccable etiquette and good workplace manners can be the factors to help someone stand out from the crowd.
That’s why interviewing skills are a priority in the enrichment program. Given the importance of first impressions, knowing how to conduct oneself in an interview can be the difference between a no and a school admission or job offer.
5. Nuance and the Importance of Context
Westminster’s enrichment program is a kind of life-skills course. With everything they cover in this class, students are guided to understand that context and situations define what behavior and personal presentation are appropriate and not.
It’s not a black-and-white discussion about this way of acting being right and another way being wrong. It’s about exploring the nuance and context of any given personal or professional situation, and it’s about understanding the underlying reasons etiquette and manners matter in the first place.
Learning to foster self-respect and to show respect for others are pillars of the Westminster curriculum, and that is the driving force behind the enrichment program.
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