Home » World News » I run a children's etiquette school in NYC. Here's how I'm helping my high-profile clients' kids learn manners and people skills amid a pandemic.
I run a children's etiquette school in NYC. Here's how I'm helping my high-profile clients' kids learn manners and people skills amid a pandemic.
Faye de Muyshondt is an author and the founder of Socialsklz, a Manhattan-based social etiquette school for kids.
She works with students from ages four to 18 and teaches them skills like how to introduce themselves properly, how to initiate small talk, and how to use dining utensils correctly.
The pandemic has caused a temporary end to de Muyshondt's in-person lessons, so she and her staff are instead conducting workshops virtually.
Here's how de Muyshondt's has shifted her job and business during the pandemic, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.
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Before becoming a social etiquette instructor, I worked at an international public relations agency for 14 years building brands, securing media coverage, and conducting media training. My specialty was prepping high-profile clients for appearances on programs like "60 Minutes" and "The Today Show." We'd work on eye contact, body language, active listening, and how to handle difficult conversations. Afterwards clients would always say, "Gosh, I wish I did this sooner."
Then while teaching public relations and marketing as an adjunct professor at NYU and Fordham Graduate School of Business, I first realized there was no formal social or communications skills training in elementary, high school, or even college. I was inspired to start building these lessons into my curriculum, and the feedback I received from students was great.
I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as a Big Sister, and approached them about teaching the same type of lessons to kids. They had a program pairing high schoolers with corporate mentors, and asked me to work with the students on their workplace interactions. Several of the corporations working with BBBS were thrilled with the results, and invited me to work with their own interns. Next, I approached YMCA and Girl Scouts and began working with thousands of children throughout the public school system, many from at-risk areas.
In 2009, I launched Socialsklz for kids ages four through 18 to help equip them with the vital tools needed to succeed on the playground, the classroom, and ultimately, the workplace.
Our signature courses EssentialKidz and EssentialTweenz last four hours each, and have a maximum of 10 children per class. We also offer private instruction, but I don't allow parents to sit in on trainings, because we've found they are less impactful.
We teach four-year-olds to maintain eye contact by having them peer through a long tube with a person on the other end of it. Students learn about greetings, introductions, and small talk by acting out real-life scenarios such as arriving at a friend's birthday party. In PresentationSklz, kids interview one another and give a presentation on the other person. In DiningSklz, we eat together and learn how to use utensils and napkins properly for any situation, whether you're in the cafeteria or at a fancy restaurant.
Traditionally, the bulk of our interactive workshops and one-on-one instruction are in person.