photos by Angela Cardenali
Diane Massey, founder and director of the Berkshire School of Etiquette, is focusing her new Lenox business on teaching manners and respect to children, with plans to grow into more adult classes.
LENOX, Mass. — It's a typical situation for a child: He or she puts something into his or her mouth, thinks it's disgusting and wants it out of his or her mouth. Like, immediately.
At home, the child likely would just spit it out and squeal "gross." But what about in public, at a restuarant, or at an event with a grownup, like a party or wedding?
Diane Massey knows what to do — and her new business in Lenox gives the answer to that scenario and all sorts of other questions relating to good manners and polite behavior.
Massey, who holds a degree in business administration and has held executive-level positions at nonprofit arts and education organizations, said the idea to start the Berkshire School of Etiquette came from her desire to find personal satisfaction in a career.
"I've been looking for something that fuels my fire," Massey said as she sat in the airy office space she is sharing with two other women business owners at 69 Church St.
The South County resident came across a tea room in Arizona that was teaching etiquette and was "immediately intrigued" by the idea of helping people brush up on basic manners.
"It's a skill that's sorely lacking," she said.
But Massey's new business is not just about one skill, such as learning which fork to use at a dinner or even how to spit out unwanted food. (Which, by the way, one should not do into one's napkin.) It's about social skills, communication skills and confidence building, which is why the most natural place to focus her business — for now — is on children.
Earlier this year, she was certified in children's etiquette after completing an extensive training program at the American School of Protocol in Atlanta. This summer, she is offering several classes for children, including a six-week "Etiquette Certification for Children," a one-hour-a-week program for kindergartners through fifth-graders that starts Wednesday, July 16, as well as two-hour, one-time classes for the same age group and preschoolers on July 16, 23 and 30.
Massey said she did a trial class with the children of some people she knew at the Monterey General Store to test out the program
"The children love it," she said, adding that children tend to be receptive to someone other than Mom or Dad correcting them on their behavior. "They don't want their parents to police it."
And those parents are receptive to an activity for their children that is more than just babysitting.
"Parents want their children to be somewhere," she said. "They want to give their child a little bit of edge."
That edge includes dining etiquette, introductions, eye contact, phone etiquette, thank-you notes and presentation skills, with each child giving a two-minute presentation during the program.
"The children really grow as individuals," she said.
Working with children was natural to Massey, who coached youth soccer for more than 10 years, and so it made sense to focus her business there. But she is offering some programs for adults, too — "Groom the Graduate" to prepare recent graduates for job interviews, set for Thursday, July 17, as well as "Diva, Dining and Decorum," an etiquette brush-up for women being offered July 31 and Aug. 7. She will give private lessons, and she hopes to incorporate business and wedding etiquette classes as well as longer programs for adults, too.
"You are never too young to start and never too old to learn new skills that will build knowledge and confidence, enhance your presence and improve your life," Massey said, echoing a sentiment that can be found on her website, www.berkshireschoolofetiquette.com.
Massey said she wants people to know that etiquette is not an old-fashioned concept. It's about acting with cooperation, respect and civility.
"This isn't about going home and being rigid and stuffy," she said. "It's modern etiquette. It's what's real today."
Massey can be reached at 845-325-2247 or diane@berkshireschoolofetiquette.