Sunday mornings are usually filled with religious or sporting events for town youth.
But this past Sunday, it was all about minding your P's and Q's.
A group of children, ages 7-12, were enrolled by their parents in Etiquette Boot Camp, where they could learn how to fold a napkin, set the table and pass the butter without violating the many written, and unwritten, laws of civilized society.
For $199, the four-hour course at the Courtyard Boston Andover aimed to “get kids in shape for the next family dinner, social gathering or formal event,” according to a press release on the event.
It also promised to “teach them how to start and maintain conversations with adults and peers, how to introduce themselves, when to interrupt and much more."
Two sessions were offered, including one for children ages 7-12 in the morning, and another for 13- to 17-year-olds in the afternoon.
The course was taught by Snezana Pejic, educator and founder of The Etiquette Academy of New England, who is also a soft skills coach and advocate, with a resume that includes working for King Hussein of Jordan.
To begin, Pejic emerged from the conference room where the children would spend the morning, and entered the hotel lobby where the group anxiously waited with their parents. She greeted each child like royalty, asking their names, sharing hers, making eye contact and shaking hands. Throughout the morning session, she referred to the children as Mr. and Ms., using only their surnames.
The children waved good bye to their parents, and moved into the room, which had tables set in a U-shape, with plates, napkins, silverware and water glasses at each place. Pejic’s projector and and screen took center stage.
Right away, children were asked to "tally" some of the less desirable behaviors of the group, such as inappropriate use of the word “like,” and non-discrete yawning.
Pejic told the group, “I realized I have this knowledge that is special. I wanted to teach my daughter, and children around the world, to treat each other with kindness.”
Pejic told the group, “from now on, you are going to turn the tables on your parents. You will be the etiquette experts at home. I’ll teach you how to eat like the King of Jordan. Like you’re dining with the Queen of England.”
The syllabus included everything from basic greetings, sharing a spotlight, understanding place settings, and polite eating (bites should be one third of the size of one’s index finger).
Asked why they think their parents enrolled them, Philip Neff, 10, said “to learn to hold a spoon correctly,” while Charlotte Saniuk said, “to eat neater, and know what to do.”
Charlotte’s mom, Heather Saniuk, concurred. “I want her to learn how to handle restaurants and public events.”
Pejic asked the group, “What is the polite way to pick one’s nose? With an index finger or a pinky finger?” After a few seconds of puzzled looks and mischievous grins, pupils threw support behind one answer, or the other.
“Trick question!” Pejic said smiling. “You don’t pick your nose!” Polite laughter followed.
It was during her years at Boston University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in finance and e-commerce, that Pejic observed the cultural barriers and challenges her peers faced when integrating into the BU and Boston community.