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Paul Young's Young @ Heart

The No-Hat Rule

Would you agree that manners, civility, and respect for decorum are values that are heading the way of the horse and buggy? Paul Young thinks so. He says a return to teaching manners in school must start at the top -- so take off those ballcaps!

Jocelyn was a music teacher. As she and her husband drove together to one of her recent elementary music programs, Jocelyn mused, I'll bet this will be a 30-cap night!

It irritated Jocelyn that so many people attending the program, especially the men, didn't know enough to remove their hats inside the building. Even worse, they kept on their hats during the performance -- much to the dismay of the person seated behind them!


It always seemed to Jocelyn that there was a correlation between the number of ballcaps in the audience and the level of behavior she'd witness that night. The more ballcaps, the greater degree of talking and restlessness. The more ballcaps, the greater the number of people who would get up and walk around during the program. The more ballcaps, the more parents who allowed their kids to run around during the performance.

Why, she wondered, had no one, particularly the principal, done anything to help control the audiences?

Jocelyn had had it to the brim!


I hate to be cynical.

Worse than that, I hate to seem out of touch with reality.

But I'm with Jocelyn on this one!

Would any of you agree that society's standards for etiquette have grown too lax? Are manners, civility, and respect for decorum all values of the past? It seems to me that many teachers and principals feel that way. In place of standards and manners, anything goes.

And that upsets me to no end.

The lack of respect for protocol is evident in many schools I visit. The standards -- for dress, behavior, responsibility, consideration, and just plain common courtesies -- have eroded in the elementary grades. If any attempt has ever been made to develop them, that is.

The erosion of standards was painfully obvious to me the other night when I attended an after-hours school function. I couldn't believe how many kids and men at the school concert I attended were wearing baseball caps.

Baseball caps are for baseball games and other sporting events. They dont belong at school performances.

If I was in charge at that school, the first thing I would do would be to establish a no-hat rule.

And it reminded me of what Jocelyn and her colleagues decided to do.


Instead of just accepting the ballcaps-to-behavior ratio, and determined to see conditions change, Jocelyn brought up the issue of ballcaps and behavior at a meeting with other music teachers in the district where she taught. It was with some relief that she heard several colleagues share similar concerns. But she was disappointed that some of the old guard thought nothing could ever be done to change the situation and were unwilling to try.

I'm surely not going to stand up there and tell the parents how to behave, said one of the most senior teachers in the room. They'll be insulted and complain to the principal.

Then Jocelyn put it on the table: We have a problem. It's getting worse in my school and probably in each of yours as well. If we are supposed to teach performance skills to the kids, maybe we also need to teach audience etiquette as well. Maybe people act the way they do because they just don't know any better. I think we have a responsibility to establish the expectations we want from our students as well as our audience. Is it too much to expect them to sit and listen while a song is being performed?

A few nodding heads in the room led to further discussion. We just have to find a nice way to make our points and consistently convey the message, said another colleague.

As the teachers deliberated, soon they came to agreement that they would include rules of audience etiquette in all of their concert programs and instruct the audiences attention to them. They would explain the rules and the reasons for them and request cooperation in a totally professional manner.

The rules the group developed appear in the endbar at the bottom of this article.


Within a few months, Jocelyn began to see positive results. Most people were very cooperative. Several parents commented that they were very happy to see audience expectations being addressed -- and in a positive way. Her principal commended her for her efforts. Jocelyn and her colleagues became comfortable speaking to audiences before each program began, setting the expectations and reinforcing them when necessary.

Jocelyns approach reinforced a valuable lesson: She realized it was wrong to become frustrated and angry with the performance of her students unless she had clearly taught them and made sure they learned the lessons. She also realized that, if she wanted better results, it was necessary to teach the adults as well as the children.


Do you think I'm being petty about this? Or worse, do you think I'm being rude? I hope not. I don't think it's petty to challenge parents, especially men, about wearing hats inside in public. I think we need to draw attention to standards of dress that adults and children alike should know and observe.

The way I see it, too many principals fail to acknowledge the issue. Too many miss an opportunity when they fail to teach acceptable standards of public decorum -- to students or adults.

And I'm happy to make it my job to establish a starting point for protocol, some norms of etiquette.

If you are a principal or aspiring principal, I hope you'll take the lead with this issue. Lack of etiquette and respect for manners are issues everywhere. Effective principals should recognize and acknowledge that the status of adult behavior at their public functions reflects positively, or negatively, upon their school -- and upon them. We must work proactively to establish norms and standards of behavior that create a positive public environment for everyone.

Audience Etiquette for School Music Programs

Wait to be seated between selections or between acts. It is distracting to the audience and performers when someone enters during the performance.

Avoid trips to the restroom or drinking fountain while the program is in progress.

Please do not wear hats inside the performance area. They block the view of the person behind you.

Please do not bring food or drinks into the performance hall.

Please do not talk or make other unnecessary noises during the performance. This is very distracting to the performers and to others in the audience.

Please turn off all cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices that may distract the performers or detract from the performance. These items may also interfere with our sound system.

Do not allow small children to play with keys, coins, or toys that make noise. Keep children seated with you and out of the aisles. If your children become upset, start crying, or create a distraction for others, please remove them from the performance hall until they are ready to return.

Please applaud at the end of each selection, unless it is a multi-movement work for which applause is appropriate at the very end.

Please do not shout out names of students and make inappropriate comments. Students are being assessed on their ability to display performance skills. They have been taught not to wave at members of the audience. Please help them avoid that temptation by refraining from inappropriate behavior while in the audience.

Please do not take pictures that require the use of a flash or use recording equipment that will become distracting to the performers and others in the audience.

Enjoy the program. We appreciate your cooperation with our efforts to provide the highest level performance standards for all students and listeners.

Article by Paul Young
Copyright © Education World®

Last updated 12/02/2104.