Why two guys decided to start a 'courtesy club' for students at Willard Elementary School

click to enlarge Carlos Garcia (left) and Jared Kuhn - DEREK HARRISON PHOTO
Derek Harrison photo
Carlos Garcia (left) and Jared Kuhn

Teachers these days are as busy as ever. It seems like every year there's a new test they have to get their kids ready for, or a new performance measure they have to meet. Working parents, meanwhile, can be more focused on putting food on the table than whether a child has their elbows on it.

Amid all that, who has time to teach kids common courtesy?

That's why student support specialist Carlos Garcia and counselor Jared Kuhn decided to create a "Courtesy Club" at Willard Elementary School. The club, started last fall, teaches good manners, etiquette, respect and kindness to dozens of elementary school kids. It culminates with a fancy dinner where kids get to dress up and show off their skills.

Now, Garcia (right) and Kuhn (left) hope they can continue the club in the coming years and see it spread to other schools. The club's motto: "Feel good, look good to do good."

INLANDER: Is this filling a gap that you feel is missing in education?

KUHN: I think with the pressures on teachers, the accountability, that the kids kind of lost touch with basic interactions because they had to pass a test. They had more pressure towards tests, not toward basic stuff that I remember growing up that we got, the "please" and "thanks yous."

GARCIA: With technology, we live in a world where most of the apps for the kids have auto-replies, so they don't really have that real-life interaction that you may have normally had 20 years ago when there weren't cell phones available.

Were you taught common courtesy while you were in school?

GARCIA: Not besides my family. We figured this would be something cool for the students to be a part of — exposing students to that kind of environment early — because, like I shared with them, personally I didn't have that type of environment growing up where we'd go to a fancy dinner or something like that.

What is something discourteous that you notice kids often do?

KUHN: To be honest, in this day and age, they just don't say "thank you." We're such an instant gratification world where they just forget a simple thing like saying "thank you." When going through the lunch line, they just expect the food.

GARCIA: At our school, the staff is really surprised and happy to see that students in the club were saying "please" and "thank you." If the students would do things that were naughty, they would admit, "Oh, I'm not supposed to be doing this." We had a student who cut the line at lunch, and the lunch lady goes, "Aren't you in the Courtesy Club?" And he goes, "Yeah, you're right." And he went back to the end of the line.

How will these skills help kids later on life?

KUHN: You can be a person who can be the smartest person in the world, but if you don't have those simple skills of just saying "please" and "thank you," people when you get older are going to look at you and go, "Was that guy or girl nice?" I really think that common courtesy along with a good education can take you a long ways in life.

GARCIA: Having those fundamental skills now, they're just going to get better and better. So as adults it's going to be better for things like networking. It will give them a head start at least. ♦

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione is an Inlander staff writer covering education, Spokane County, Spokane Valley, and other news. He grew up in Spokane and graduated from Eastern Washington University.