One thing Chase County Elementary School deeply values is cultivating student respect, manners and professionalism.

These were practiced and displayed earlier this month during Social Skills Day, an annual sixth-grade event that allows students to practice social behaviors.

Twenty adults sat in a circle that filled the lunchroom, and students rotated from adult to adult, striking up conversation and learning more about the adults in their community.

“They’re working on what to say,” Teacher Rachel Matile said. “A lot of times, if there’s an awkward moment, it’s OK to let them have to feel it.”

Adult participants ranged from an insurance agent and a bank president to a Watch DOGS volunteer and grandparents. Some had participated before, and others were completely new to the experience.

Leading up to the event, students watched videos and went through lessons on how to sit properly, shake hands, handle a line, consider others first and practice other respectful social behaviors. They also read books like “Wonder” by RJ Palacio to openly observe and discuss social behaviors communicated in the book.

“We learned about firm handshakes and eye contact and when you speak, you need to speak clearly and loudly,” one student said.

Students were keen to ask questions to their adult conversationalists. Throughout the lunchroom rang questions and answers about work and school, families and homes, pets and hobbies and much more. Students learned about the adults with whom they interact with in their community, and community members learned about the students.

Some things the students discussed:

F “This weather gives me a reason to wear a sweatshirt, instead of being hot and still wearing a sweatshirt.”

F “We went to the rodeo. The rodeo was fun. I [am] always in the rodeo catching cows. I’m, like, jumping on their back and yanking them down and get the ribbon off their tail. I run fast.”

F “We want a treehouse in a tree, but my dad said no, ‘cause it will take forever to build. Plus, if the tree breaks, then we’re all going to to die. That’s what he’s scared about. We want the Treehouse Masters to come.”

F “I like frying things, because that’s kind of easier for me to do. Breakfast is kind of essential for me, ‘cause that’s what I kind of learned first to do ... It took me a long time to learn how to flip eggs.”

F “We have these skateboards, and we’re going to be making ramps for them, because our friend … brought in a set for it, and it got bought the first day he brought it in.”

When asked about their feelings toward Social Skills Day, one student said, “At first I was nervous, but I’m not now, really.”

Others described the similarities and differences between talking to a roomful of many adults in this setting and talking to adults on the phone or in person around the community. Sometimes they order their own food at restaurants, and the cattle project these students experienced while in fifth grade required them to speak on the phone often, ordering necessary supplies.

Afterward, students invited the adults to share cookies and lemonade with them during a reception. Participating adults commented things like, “Didn’t they do great?” and “It’s so fun to see them. They do a good job.”

Matile initiated the event several years ago and was happy with this year’s turnout. She hopes the students learn “to show those manners and to feel that confidence in how good it feels to show those.”

She has received positive feedback from some of the parents whose children participated in the past. One parent shared how their student automatically introduced himself when meeting a new friend, handshake and all. Matile expressed the importance of students treating one another, family members and other adults with that kind of respect as a simple habit.

“You will change this world,” Matile reminded students while learning these skills. “You’re going to be the coolest person around. These adults are going to be so impressed if you are respectful and use manners.”

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