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Protocol Elegance

Posted by Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson homeschooled her three children from grades K-12. Linda not only
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on Friday, 08 April 2011
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The March 25th "HMS Pinafore" performance at the Piedmont Opera marked my eleventh year of Protocol in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Although times, faces, and performances have changed over the years, the basic idea has not. Protocol is just that, "the customs and regulations dealing with diplomatic formality, precedence, and etiquette" (dictionary.com).

I first eased into the event as a chaperone and then a few years later Leigh Bortins passed the hostess duties on to me. Leigh was a member of a local country club so our formal dinners started there with her comfort of familiarity. Later, I found a fine restaurant near the theatre for our four course meals. What I appreciate about the restaurant is the public atmosphere of elegance for our evening that will be translated for the future: Today, the focus may be the student's struggle with how to eat bruschetta gracefully while having a pleasant conversation at the same time; at some future tomorrow, the focus may move to a conversation of greater import, perhaps a prelude to a marriage proposal.

With the development of Protocol, the event moved beyond an experience of gathering for an evening in formal dress. Leigh added the pleasant and informative Protocol Matters by Sandra Boswell to the Classical Conversations Bookstore. It was very inspiring to be reminded that manners are purposeful kindnesses that are not necessarily intuitive, not needing to be stuffy, and can easily be demonstrated and practiced. My role grew to be more supportive and friendly, not only as a kind greeter but also as a guide for the evening's event from first contact by email, to delivering information, to the arrival on the doorstep, to gentle instruction during both the dinner and performance.

I have realized that a Protocol event is just another integrative extension of the classical model. The grammar of particular manners is learned, the dialectic of discussing proper protocol in certain situations is discussed, and the rhetoric of the active participation-practices and walking in the knowledge-is carried out. The venue can be as simple or complex as desired and is determined by the preferences of the host or hostesses and community.

Life sharing and the joys of experiences that are out of the norm are priceless. Our evening of elegance last March started with pictures and proceeded through meal courses. We learned how to graciously deal with a spilled drink on a pristine tablecloth. Our server and guide to eating with etiquette used the occasion as a "no shame" lesson in a dialectic fashion. We traveled through entries with young men holding doors and ladies gliding up stairs with high heels and swishing dresses. We enjoyed the opera, laughed, clapped, and behaved comfortably.

My reward?  Another glorious evening of finery with fine new friends-and maybe future connoisseurs of the arts-had transpired. A bonus greeted me in the foyer of the opera house: Brad, a former Classical student from eight years ago and Protocol adventurer, introduced me to his fiancée.  He was still going to the opera, and loving it!



If you haven't done so yet, Protocol is a special blessing that you can add to your CC community, to inject a dose of graceful living to your learning and your fellowship.

If you are a director with access to the CC Portal, login first and you can get some nuts and bolts information on the protocol forum on the CC Portal. Or, you can navigate to portal >discussion forum>director/tutor forums>challenge director/tutor forum > protocol.

You can also take a look at the details of a sampling of different protocol events from various campuses below to get an idea of how different CC campuses handle Protocol.


Tulsa Classical - Oklahoma

An article written by Annie Patocka (Challenge II student)

"The Challenge Protocol Event for the Asbury and Victory campuses in Tulsa was held this year at the Platt College restaurant, ironically named Foundations. Tiffany Poe, the head chef and teacher at Platt College's culinary school (and a Foundations mom), gave us a power point presentation concerning etiquette. We learned about how to dress, sit, and make eye contact during interviews, not to mention the right and wrong way to give a handshake. Mrs. Poe's lively attitude and humorous demeanor were both amusing and informative.

We were also instructed on how to eat properly.  All of us learned something new while she explained how to remember what silverware to use first, where to put the bread plate and water glass in relation to the plate, how to correctly butter bread, and how to eat in the "continental" fashion.

One of the best things about having a Protocol Event is that you get to use what you've learned right after you learn it. During the meal, we practiced the methods of correctly eating food that Mrs. Poe had described to us. We had to laugh when, immediately after Mrs. Poe had explained the right way to get a new napkin, one of the students dropped a napkin on the ground. We learned many aspects of etiquette and had a chance to practice them while enjoying a memorable evening with our classmates and friends.  We are thankful to Mrs. Poe and our directors for giving us the opportunity."

Piedmont Triad - North Carolina

Students wore formal attire and enjoyed a four-course dinner before attending a performance of the opera "HMS Pinafore."  One mother said she values Protocol because of the opportunity to "model adulthood, culture, and love of arts, while cultivating a civilized generation and celebrating the ideals in human society and culture; whereas modern day proms tend to celebrate other and often less-noble, aspects of the human spirit."

Edmond Classical - Oklahoma

Later this month, students will enjoy an etiquette lesson (including table settings and appropriate demeanor at the arts performance) with a local junior cotillion director during a formal dinner.  Afterward, students will attend a performance of "The Aluminum Show" which combines dance and theater.

Owensboro Classical - Kentucky

Owensboro's first Formal Protocol will be held this April. Prior to the event, students will attend a preparatory seminar based on Protocol Matters by Sandra Boswell, where they will learn the proper etiquette for the evening.  Dressed to the hilt in formals and suits and ties, they will pose for pictures, dine in the elegant, intimate setting of the private Blue Room of Owensboro's historic Miller House, and then attend a combined performance of Kentucky's Owensboro Symphony Orchestra and Indiana's Evansville Philharmonic. This special symphony event will be presenting "The Heavens," featuring the music of composers such as Berlioz, Prokofiev, and Holst.

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Linda Tomkinson homeschooled her three children from grades K-12. Linda not only supports lifelong education, but also values learning new skills for she loves ideas and implementing them. She advocates empowering students and parents to pursue their dreams. She has been involved with Classical Conversations since 1997 and has directed Challenges B, II, III and IV. She has been Program Manager for Challenge II, III, IV, and has developed the CC+ program. She also writes, develops, and trains for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. Linda holds a degree in art and a minor in humanities, but she does not feel constrained in any learning area, as she has embraced the classical idea of learning. She resides with her husband, Rick, in North Carolina. In her free time she can be found in the flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens or with her birds, bees, and bunnies.


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