The Protocol Program at a Glance

One of the unique aspects of the Upper School education at Westminster Academy is the Protocol course. Our Director of Student Life, Emily O’Dell, recently shared insight into this invaluable program, and it’s worth a read to glean an understanding of all of the rich, and often overlooked, lessons the course offers Westminster students.

From Mrs. O’Dell:
As Westminster strives to cultivate wisdom and virtue in our students, we strive to equip them not only with the skills to reason, discern, and love God’s Truth, but also with skills and principles to incarnate the humility and graciousness of Jesus in His world. One way we seek to cultivate these embodied virtues is through training in the principles of etiquette and others-centered thinking. 

The world’s definition and motivation for teaching these skills is to avoid awkward situations and to make one’s self look good or stand out vs. the Christian’s calling. Recognizing that all men and women are created in God’s image, students learn to follow Christ’s example by loving, serving, and respecting others before self through training in the principles and skills of propriety. Our protocol curriculum seeks to provide the students the opportunity to consider and embody Christ-like virtues such as discernment, humility, respect, compassion, generosity, gratefulness, and hospitality. These qualities are encouraged throughout a student’s tenure here, but are formalized in the Protocol course. 

At various points throughout the year, each grade in the Upper School considers a particular set of skills and principles in a series of etiquette lessons. 

In the 8th grade course, students cover the following: 

  • Common Courtesies
  • Conversation Etiquette
  • How do we show respect in our culture? What are some reasons we do not show respect?      
  • What does the way in which we carry ourselves communicate to others?
  • Making Introductions and Being Introduced
  • Performance and Audience Etiquette
  • Technology Etiquette
  • Writing thank you notes

This year, students, along with their teachers and school board members, will attend Macbeth at Theatre Memphis. The night will include a meet and greet reception at the theater with WA board members for students to practice the conversation etiquette they will have learned. 

In the 9th grade, some of the topics covered include: 

  • Why manners are important
  • Formal dinner party etiquette
  • The dinner table as a communal place (more than a place where food is consumed)
  • Restaurant etiquette, including seating, interacting with the restaurant staff, notifying the server of a problem, and tipping
  • Making polite table conversation, asking thoughtful questions, and topics to avoid
  • How to respond to an invitation
  • Cell phone and computer etiquette

Our ninth grade students are given a special opportunity in which they can put into practice the skills they’ve learned at a semi-formal dinner party along with all of the 9th grade teachers and administrators. 

In the 10-12th grades, there are two instructional components of the Protocol Course.  The first part is the ballroom and group dance instruction. Of note, upon completion of the senior year, all students will receive ½ PE credit for ballroom dancing. Our own Mrs.Tori Wages, Dr. Christopher Marino, and Mr. Kenny Shackleford will teach these dance lessons to the students. 

The second part of our curriculum consists of etiquette training. The students will review formal dinner manners as well as how to respond to an invitation, make introductions, engage in dinner conversation, process through a receiving line, and escort a guest. 

The overall purpose of the protocol instruction is the “others-directed” thinking it aims to cultivate, and how to honor and respect the opposite sex. Escorting a lady allows our young men to practice the skill of accompanying another person to an event, as well as being aware of and attentive to the welfare of the other guests. It also allows our young women to practice being escorted and gracious to others. The events of the evening are intentionally set up in such a way that each person dances with a number of different people rather than staying with one person the whole night.  

Overall, it is the aim of these courses that our students would graduate with a breadth of knowledge and experience to better conduct themselves for Christ in social settings throughout their lives. 

If you’d like a deeper look into this fantastic program, join us for our Parent Protocol Night on Thursday, February 9th at 6:30 pm for a reception and production of Macbeth at Theatre Memphis. The evening will include a wine and appetizer reception beginning at 6:30 pm, followed by the Theatre Memphis performance of MACBETH at 7:30 pm. Tickets are free, but seats are limited. Please RSVP HERE by Friday, February 3 to save your spot! 

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