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MANNERS & ETIQUETTE : Class Teaches Children the ABCs of Common Courtesy : Simi Valley mother was so discouraged by what she was seeing that she decided to do something. Program is a hit with kids, parents.


You have your child's friends to your house for a sleep-over and in the morning, you drive them back to their homes. Each one jumps out of the car with barely a wave, much less a "thank you."

You are having dinner at a friend's home and are mortified to hear your own child say, "Yuck! This tastes gross!"

Perhaps you've noticed the scarcity of common courtesy among young people. What's a mother to do?

If you're Cassandra Sorrells, you don't sit back and complain, you take action. Sorrells, a Simi Valley mother of a 13-year-old son, became so discouraged with the manners of her son's friends that she approached the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District about teaching a "manners and etiquette" class.

"We were delighted with the idea," said Doug Gale, recreation supervisor for the district. "We had been looking for someone to do a class like this. And we've been amazed at the number of participants."

Sorrells, who has a public relations and advertising background, taught manners classes for Brownies and the 4-H Club in Indiana and began teaching in Simi Valley this summer.

"I really felt this was needed," Sorrells said. "It started when I had my son's friends stay overnight. I took them to dinner and didn't get a single thank you for the dinner or for anything else. I would really like to see these kinds of programs somehow expanded to the schools."

Sorrells class, divided into 4- to 7-year-olds and 8- to 11-year-olds, had 25 students in the first session and has an equal number already registered for the second session, which begins Tuesday. Classes run for 45 minutes once a week for five weeks and end with a graduation "tea party."

The class has been a hit with the children and their families. Thirty parents, siblings, grandparents and assorted friends attended a July 19 tea party with the 25 students.

Four-year-old Matthew Bruno shared his most important etiquette lesson: "How to say excuse me when you burp and when you talk to someone to say 'please, may I have that after you?' if someone had it first." Matthew's mother, Joyce Bruno, said she sent Matthew to hear the manners message from "someone other than his parents."

Amanda Lynch, also 4, learned a very important point of etiquette: "Don't pick your nose."

Kim Rassp, 10, and Jennifer and Erin Hersh, 10 and 8 respectively, attended the class together. Why did their parents send them?

"Because we had bad manners," said Jennifer.

Valerie Paton sent her daughter, Melody Lynn, age 5.

"I was looking for an experience where peers valued manners," Paton said. "I believe in the value of peer pressure. When they hear it from a teacher rather than from their parents and when they watch their peers rehearse, it really makes a difference. Our only problem now is that Melody is the Amy Vanderbilt of our lives."

The most important thing Melody said she learned? "Not to wipe your mouth on your hand."

Sorrells has a class theme: "Manners are words and actions that show you care." At the beginning of each class, each child is given a special heart-shaped sticker to remind him or her of the theme.

One of the class activities was to write a thank-you note. It turned out to be a favorite exercise for many of the children. "I made a card for my Dad and thanked him for taking us to 'Jurassic Park,' " said 8-year-old Dyane Osorio.

Jennifer Jiru, 9, wrote to "my best friends who moved away. They gave me a lot of clothes before they moved," she said.

Jennifer's mother, Peggy Jiru, is very pleased that this class is available. "They need more classes along these lines," she said. "I was thrilled when I saw it. I had looked for books on the subject and there really isn't anything for these age groups. I thought it would benefit the whole family."

The number of boys attending the class was significantly less than the number of girls attending. Matt Myers, 10, was the only boy in the 8- to 11-year-old class. Though he's not sure he'd take another manners class, he grudgingly admits that he did learn how to set the table. "I used to put the fork on the right, now I put it on the left."

Sorrells was pleased with the class, its participants and their progress, but gave the parents an important parting thought: "Children's manners are only as good as their parent's manners."


The next series of Manners and Etiquette classes will be begin on Tuesday and will run through Aug. 31. Classes for 4- to 7-year olds run from 12:30-1:15; for 8- to 11-year-olds from 1:30-2:15. The cost of the series is $15. Classes will be held at Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, 1692 Sycamore Drive, Simi Valley, 93065. For more information, call 584-4400.

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