Taking up charms

It's tough to be civil in a sometimes uncivil society. In our increasingly fast-paced and informal culture, some children aren't readily absorbing social graces, and concerned parents are looking for help.

Enter Euphemia Uvick, a language and life-skills teacher in Ashland. Her private, eight-week etiquette courses focus on respect, self esteem and manners for young people ages 8 to 20.

Uvick's courses are not white-gloved sessions where strict rules are hammered into young socialites. Rather, they are lessons in social communication based on respect.

"The motto of all my classes is respect, kindness, and humility," Uvick said. "Respect and good manners go together. We all have to live harmoniously."

Uvick, a native of France and now a U.S. citizen, has taught elementary and middle school children for several years, and has been teaching etiquette courses for more than eight years. During her travels both abroad and in the U.S., she noticed a growing trend.

"I saw so many children and adults being rude to each other. I thought, 'let's try to teach some etiquette.' Not simply mannerisms and manners, but above all respect."

Uvick believes that respect for others stems from respect for oneself. "We start with self-esteem, loving one's self, and move forward," she said. "I tell the children instead of judging someone different, try to learn from them. And always in your life try to put yourself in the place of others."

Uvick tailors her classes to specific needs, whether requested by the parents or the students. She may teach proper restaurant behavior, table manners, telephone manners, or etiquette for traveling. She says several adults have also taken private courses from her.

"The adult students are usually business travelers who want to use proper etiquette and communication skills," she said.

She also teaches recent college graduates interview skills. Uvick's advice for recent graduates is to be themselves, but leave personal issues at home.

"I tell them hang up your coat at the office door; that is your personal life," she said. "Put the coat back on when you leave. Your private life should never interfere in your business life, and visa versa."

Uvick usually teaches individual classes or small groups, though she has occasionally had very large classes.

"I recently had a church group of 23 young people one evening who wanted to learn how to set a table. We had a wonderful time," Uvick said.

Toby Hood, a 12-year-old Ashland student, has been taking classes with Uvick for nearly a year.

"It's very nice," Hood said. "I started out taking French lessons, and in etiquette I've learned social skills. I've learned how to respect a lady, how to treat someone in passing, and table manners. She's taught me to be humble and respectful."

"Some parents bring me their children because they want help, but for some the child is not interested." Uvick said. "I try to find things the child likes. I always ask children what they want to learn. Some want to learn social skills, some just want to talk about different situations."

Uvick's home-classroom has grown from a place to learn manners to a place where children can also have an open and honest discussion. "Often we talk about friendship and behavior in school," she said.

A recurring theme among students is teasing and bullying.

"I often have students ask me how to behave when another child is aggressive toward them," she said. "I say, you don't respond, you just walk away. The student is afraid to be thought of as weak if he or she does not fight. I say if you do not fight, if you walk away, you are not weak. You are intelligent."

Toby Hood says he appreciates such discussions with Uvick.

"She taught me how to respond if someone is mean to me. I've learned to be true to myself," he said.

Uvick recognizes the many obstacles parents must overcome to raise respectful children.

"It is very difficult to be a child these days," she said. "There is the media telling us to buy things all the time, there is television, the Internet. Ours is a consumer culture. Parents work so hard and they are so busy."

Many children are over-scheduled or overstimulated, according to Uvick, so she encourages them to "get out in nature, forget the schedules, forget the cell phones, relax."

"People think that coming to learn etiquette and perfect manners is good," Uvick said. "Yes, it is good, but you need heart, you need humility. Perfect manners is nothing compared with a good heart."

For further information on Uvick's course, contact her via e-mail at eurea@charter.net.

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