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Potomac Etiquitte

At the Youth School of Etiquette, Kids Learn the Transformative Power of Kindness and Compassion

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Gloria Ogbemudia knows that initially, many students are not excited to attend her school. Their words, expressions and body language clearly deliver that message. Soon, however, students want to come, enjoy participating and share lessons with parents, teachers and friends.  It’s as if Gloria knows magic, and in one sense, she does. She knows the power of “please and thank you,” the original magic words, and when her students learn that power, it changes everything.

A former international human-resources professional, Gloria became a certified Montessori School Administrator and later opened her own Montessori school before developing a stand-alone after-school etiquette program that she grew into what is now the Youth School of Etiquette. Gloria and her team of highly trained teachers work with students at schools in Potomac, Bethesda and elsewhere, or at the Youth School of Etiquette Potomac headquarters.

The school works with students aged three to 14, in programs tailored for their age and needs. Topics range from sharing and caring, to respect for self and others, how to politely interrupt, social media etiquette, peer pressure and bullying, handshakes and eye contact, table manners and much more. “Compassion and kindness are key lessons, and topics are structured around these,” Gloria explained.

Parents of the youngest kids, Gloria said, “are being proactive and want to prevent bad behavior. Or they’re worried about who their kids are hanging around at school.” When older kids come, Gloria said, “the parents see behaviors they are trying to prevent from escalating into something major.”

To keep things interesting, all Gloria’s teachers have a highly animated style. Also, Gloria said, “When (students) come in, I want them comfortable before I start teaching.” For younger kids, the teachers might play games for a few minutes. Older kids might be invited to sit on couches instead of classroom chairs. Usually, there are snacks and maybe hot chocolate.  

“We do a lot of role playing and have kids come to the front (of the class) to teach and tell about their experiences,” Gloria said, and added that homework at the Youth School of Etiquette might consist of students asking their teacher if there is anything she or he needs help with, or holding a door for several people and watching the reaction. “We give them fun things and they look forward to coming next week to tell us what they noticed,” Gloria explained. All the teachers are skilled at reading the energy and attitude in the room. Gloria said, “I train teachers to change direction if need be.”

If a student laments that others don’t respect him, Gloria might counsel him to show respect and kindness to others and see what happens. Usually, that student sees the world in a whole new light and begins giving and receiving the respect they crave.

Many of the school’s students are from other countries, or have foreign-born parents, so, the school’s lessons often focus on international cultures. “We have kids from all over the world,” said Gloria. “They tell us that when friends come over and smell their foreign food cooking, they might say it smells weird, and that’s offensive to them. We give them words like ‘that’s a smell I’m not familiar with’ instead. We ask the kids a lot of questions and learn where the kids’ heads are, and we change the language they use.” And that’s when the magic happens.

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