Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Who are windows for? I think they are to look out to the world from, let in light without wasting electricity, and to keep an eye on one's property.

Our neighbors have children who constantly look in to all our windows. If I am simply facing my window, even from another room, they stare and put their hands on their hips as if I have no right to look outside when they are there, which is very frequent.

I find this very uncomfortable, yet I feel I am entitled to have my shades up. I think it is rude to look in to others' windows. How can I solve this problem?

GENTLE READER: The window undeniably belongs to you. But the real question is who owns the view -- or views, as what you are seeing is different than what your neighbor's children are looking at.

You are seeing the outside world, which Miss Manners, without benefit of a law degree, declares is public property. Your neighbor's children have no reasonable expectation that no one will ever look at them from inside the house.

The children, however, are looking in to your home. This is a private space, sometimes intensely so. But before some wag appropriates this reasoning to make a public display of himself from the comfort of his living room, it is important to remember that the act of opening the shades is also a tacit, if only partial, waiver of privacy. You are always entitled to look out; the child can sometimes be excused for a passing glance, but steady watching habits need to be reported to their parents.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a high school teacher who has a ninth-grader in one of my classes who has never been taught social graces. One of the most egregious things she does is chew with her mouth open -- it's horrible. She also grabs food others are reaching for (she's not thin, so she's not starving), spreads her class material out so that it encroaches on other students' areas, etc.

Conversely, she is happy and eager to learn, and she has great, great potential. Her lack of social skills will ultimately hold her back.

I don't know what to do! I nag her constantly about her horrible diet (she lives on fast food, won't touch a vegetable), her erratic sleep schedule, and the fact that she's late daily for school. I'm afraid if I start on her social skills, it will just be too much. I've thought of sending her to a "finishing school," but I don't think they exist. Plus she doesn't need to be "finished" since she hasn't even started. I would be willing to pay for her to go to some kind of class -- I really believe in this student's future.

GENTLE READER: Although she must often remind people that it is rude to correct another person's manners, Miss Manners observes that the ban does not apply to parents and teachers. (At least not when acting in their official capacity: Being Olivia's mom does not give you jurisdiction over Zoe.)

As parents do less and less parenting, schools have been forced to take over. This is not ideal, but it may be necessary: Your school administration and fellow teachers may be willing, if not eager, to support or sponsor some mini-lessons on basic etiquette that you rightly link with the future success of your pupils.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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