‘Grandma Jan’ teaches etiquette class

Nathan Steele

Not everyone is so lucky to have a grandmother nearby to teach them proper manners and dining etiquette—unless you’re a Custer High  School student.
Jan Wilson, known to many as ‘Grandma Jan’ from her time working in Custer schools, taught manners and etiquette  lessons during special lunch and breakfast sessions to Custer High School seniors last Wednesday and Thursday.
“Contrary to belief, manners are not outdated,” says Wilson.
She began hosting the classes for high school seniors in the 2017-2018 school year.
Wilson was inspired to teach the classes after a conversation with her oldest grandson. When he went off to college, the president of the university invited him to a formal luncheon. Looking at the table setting, he said to himself “I got this. My grandma taught me this,” said Wilson.  After hearing this from him, she realized that others could benefit from those lessons she taught to her own children and grandchildren.
Wilson shared several of those valuable lessons during the class, both relating to manners and to life: put your cell phone away when with others, say ‘excuse me,’ say ‘please and thank you,’ it’s never too late to make adjustments in your life, apologize when you’ve done something wrong, wait your turn to speak in a conversation, keep your hands to yourself, make eye-contact, write thank you notes, be on time and follow through on commitments.
 In the dining etiquette portion of the class, Wilson had many useful tips for the seniors and demonstrated the different components of the table setting using a set of antique plates inherited from her parents. She also showed when to use each dish and piece of silverware, as well as where to place the napkin when eating or not eating.
“Complaining about the food is never an option,” said Wilson. She added that finishing everything on the plate isn’t obligatory, but that people should at least try what they are served, except, of course, in the case of an allergy.
Manners and customs are not always universal. She said that when traveling, it’s important to know the etiquette of the area or country you are in and shared an example from a time she was invited to a meal in Japan by her daughter-in-law, who is Japanese.
At the end of the class, the students enjoyed baked treats courtesy of Sue Sirois. Wilson then gave the students an opportunity to use their newly-learned manners to sign a thank you card for Sirois. In fact, thank you cards are important to Wilson—she keeps every one she has received.
Wilson gave the students plenty of useful information, but said “Manners should come naturally. You don’t have to be overly polished on it.”


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