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  • Writer's pictureJulie Sweany

Zooming with Manners in Mind

Whether in person or online, manners are more important than ever.

Some of the most enjoyable stories parents like to share with us are those that tell of the different ways their children practice “cotillion manners” out in the world. We love to hear about the staff at a restaurant who complimented them on the wonderful manners their children exhibited while dining… or the couple at the table next to them who asked how they got their children to behave so well. We’ve heard about grandparents coming to visit cotillion to see just what we are teaching and then raving about being asked to dance by their grandchild at a family wedding. The stories are endless, but like everything else they are now in “pause” mode. Dinners out and special events have been reduced, if not eliminated, so it is important to think of other opportunities to utilize and practice those cotillion manners where and when we can.

Many of our members are now students of “distance learning.” What a challenge for students, parents, and teachers! Since manners online are just as important as in-person manners, we have compiled some ideas to help our families “think cotillion” and continue manners practice during the era of Zoom.

Prepare your environment

At Cotillion, we take great care to ensure our set-up is just right. Our decorations should add to the experience – not distract or overwhelm. Lighting needs to be sufficient and our sound system should be optimized. We need the appropriate ratio of chairs and dance space. Each component is equally important to making cotillion a quality experience for your child to get the most out of each event. Taking similar care in setting up a child’s learning environment at home shows them that even though they are not at school, learning is still to be treated with importance and respect.

Minimize distractions

We would never hold cotillion with another event going on in the same room. At home, while the computer/camera set-up may face a wall for the student, it is a good idea to look at what is behind them so you know what the teacher and other students can see. Perhaps a privacy screen can be utilized to keep others from being distracted by a parade of people or pets during the school lesson.


Placing your child’s computer on the kitchen table or in the middle of your living space may be the only option, but the noise can be a distraction. If loud music, conversation, or television can be heard in the background, it makes learning much more difficult – and teaching nearly impossible. Cotillion directors often have to shush parents when their conversations become too loud or distracting to the members. Being conscious of reducing noise is a way of being considerate to others. At home, headphones could be helpful if separation from distracting noises is not possible.

Be on time

Children often have a hard time when they arrive at cotillion late. They often feel self-conscious and confused about what is going on since Cotillion has already begun. It can be distracting to the other members and to the directors, as well. The same applies to online learning. Being ready and on time for when “school begins” shows responsibility and respect for ones classmates and teacher.

Turn on the camera

At cotillion, each member participates and practices with the others in person. With online learning, the camera is the visual used to show your child’s presence. When the camera is switched off, your child is not really “there” to teachers and fellow classmates. The camera allows the teacher to see your child’s face, read expressions, and determine your child’s level of understanding and attentiveness. That’s already a pretty big challenge when classes have over 20 or 30 students with faces the size of a postage stamp! So turn on that camera and ensure your child is getting the attention they need and participating with the rest of the group.

Be presentable – dress appropriately

Unlike cotillion, there really isn’t a dress code that will be enforced for online learning – but there is still an expectation of being dressed! Remember that we show respect for ourselves and for the activity we are engaged in partly with our choice of attire. Being dressed in “school clothes” helps set the tone and prepares your child to be in “school mode.” Just as it is for adults working from home, it is difficult to be serious - or to be taken seriously - if one is wearing pajamas to what is supposed to be an important activity. (As a side note, T-shirts with messages can be quite distracting. We have been told that often the other students spend time trying to figure out what the shirt says or what it means rather than listening to the teacher!) Putting some thought into what we wear shows we “mean business” and also shows consideration to others.

Sit up so you are visible

Think cotillion. Remember Mr. Ehmann demonstrating proper sitting position? He would slowly slide down in his chair until he looked like he was ready to fall on the floor as an example of what NOT to do. Teachers have story after story of students that suddenly disappear from view only to find they are lying on the floor during the lesson! Yes, it is hard to sit still, but the lessons themselves are usually not that long. Students don’t have the opportunity to roll around on the floor at school, so the same rules really should apply to distance learning. Sitting up while the teacher is teaching so as to be visible on the camera shows attention and respect.

Be confident, respectful and respond to questions

At the first cotillion each year, Miss Martine introduces herself in a strong, confident voice. When your child meets their first partner, she encourages them to do the same. Looking down and speaking so quietly that one cannot be heard does not make a good impression! Miss Martine reminds the children to look others in the eye, speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard (but not TOO loud!) In Zoom class, encourage your child to do the same. Even shy children can practice becoming more confident by looking into the camera, speaking up, and responding respectfully to questions when asked by the teacher. When they get back to school and cotillion, they will be more prepared than ever!


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