FLORENCE, S.C.—When setting the table, always put your soup spoon next to your plate. Or it is your salad fork? Not sure? Just ask a Brunson-Dargan Elementary School Little Gent.
The Little Gents Club, organized in the Darlington County School District earlier this year by physical education teacher Joseph Gainey and school resource officer Keith Cauthen, teaches its students the skills and manners they need to be successful and courteous adults. Tuesday afternoon, the Little Gents took their skills on the road and had lunch at Red Bone Alley in Florence.
Brunson-Dargan Principal Ada Sindab, who accompanied the Gents on their outing, said she was happy to support the proposal for the club when Gainey and Cauthen first brought it up.
“It was funny because Coach Gainey came to me and said he wanted to start something for the boys,” Sindab said. “About the same time, Officer Cauthen came to me with an idea for the boys. I told them that they needed to talk and it just took off from there.”
The lunch outing was the first time Sindab has been with the Little Gents and she said she was thrilled to see how they acted in public. One club member pulled out a chair for Sindab when she got to the table and all of the young men waited until the women who had accompanied them had been seated to do so themselves.
“Today was the big test,” Sindab said. “We were all so excited. Around the school, it is easy to see which boys are part of the club because there are doors being opened and things like that. It is really nice to see.”
All of the Little Gents wore dress pants, a button-up dress shirt and tie to the restaurant. While waiting to order, or waiting for their food to arrive, all of them unrolled their utensils, placing them in the correct order next to their plate, and placed their cloth napkin on their lap.
Jordan Wingate said learning manners was not completely new to him, but he has learned a lot since joining the club.
“I knew my manners before but we have learned how to be a gentleman, how to sit at the table and not put your arms on the table,” Jordan said. “We learned that if your drink is gone, you don’t have to slurp.”
Jordan said some of the others in the club were his friends before and others have become his friend since the club started.
Gainey said he was pleased to see the young men remember what the adults had been teaching them.
“This was great,” Gainey said. “They seemed to be able to apply everything that we have taught them. It was something that as an educator, we saw a need to try to help young men become gentleman.”
After meal was over, with plenty of "Thank you," "Yes ma’am" and good manners all around, the young men even got a compliment from their waitress, who said she was impressed at how well-behaved they had been the entire time they were in the restaurant.
“Overall today was very successful and they all seemed to enjoy themselves” Gainey said. “We were able to get them out in the real world and experience some of the things that they will encounter for the rest of their lives and that is always good.”