Tales From the Butler Academy: Modules 0-9

Note: This is part of the “Tales From the Butler Academy” section. Start with “I’m a Slave; Why Am I Going to Butler School?” for more context.

I wanted to give a quick summary of what the butler course I’m taking has covered and what I’ve done so far. So here’s a quick module by module breakdown of the parts I’ve completed.

Module 0: Introductory Module

Resources: None

Assignment Types: All essay/written response, covering things like “how you feel about the subject of help” and “how you feel about the subject of control”, goals for the course and your career, and study techniques. 

What I Learned/Applied: Not much to apply from this module, it’s more of an introduction to the course and a “getting to know you” thing. I had to get my story straight pretty fast on the “actually a slave” thing and clarify my goals, and found subjects like help and control very applicable. 

Module 1: What Is a Butler? 

Resources: Reading Chapter 1 of Serving the Wealthy (STW), Volume 1, all of Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, pieces from STW Volume 2: “The Butler Goes Mainstream”,  “Keeping the Profession Whole”, “Historical”, “The Question of Robots and Butlers”, “And Finally, Some Printable Humour”, “A Day in the Life of a Modern Butler”, “Just When You Thought You Knew Everything”, “The Word Was Butler”, “So What Is A Hotel Butler, Anyway?”, “The Future Hospitality Professional”, “Poor People Skills and the Wealthy”, “The Indomitable British Butler”, “Transcript of Lecture at Harvard University”, “BostonCoach Keynote Speech”, and “Would You Like Your Service Today Live or Programmed, Madam?”. Watching: Gosford Park, The Butler, the pilot of Downton Abbey, the episode “Jeeves in the Country” of Jeeves and Wooster, and episode one of Black Adder III. 

Assignment Types: Essays related to the resources, one visual timeline—all on basic terminology and mindset of the profession. 

What I Learned/Applied: Still not too much to apply from this module, still covering basics, but learned some interesting historical bits, consumed some inspirational resources, and really started to get a picture of the course. 

Module 2: Essence of a Butler

Resources: Reading Chapter 2 of STW Volume 1, pieces from STW Volume 2: “Basic Attitudes”, “A Duty to the Profession”, “A Royal Butler Disgraced”, “The New Age of Service”, “Emotional Engagement—A Mantra in Search of a Technology”. 

Assignment Types: Some essays, and what I did as a giant self assessment spreadsheet. 

What I Learned/Applied: Really had to take a long look at myself and my soft skills, especially when seriously comparing to professional standards. Identified areas to work on and made plans to do so. 

Problem areas I identified included professional demeanor and professional dignity—I think this is affected by being a slave held to many kink norms day to day rather than being a professional butler. (The random beatings kind of make “dignity” take a hit, though I didn’t phrase it this way for the course.) 

Others included health and energy (for one, I had a kidney infection at the time of this module; I’ve taken a lot of concrete steps to improve my health since, and this being a weakness wasn’t exactly a shock). 

Other areas to work on: composure, humility, (fading into the) “background”. I think all have improved since. Humility, especially, we developed a few protocols around and I began to check in on in my posts/etc. As far as “background”, the later added speak when spoken to protocol helped a lot. 

Module 3: Trappings and Tools of the Trade

Resources: Reading Chapter 3 of STW Volume 1, piece from STW Volume 2: “Of Various Traditional Butler Tools”.

Assignment Types: Essays, creating (maintaining) a butler’s book and journal, acquiring/using/evaluating a butler’s resource library, wardrobe, and tools (including photos), learning basic computer tasks (if needed) and developing (maintaining) a time management system. 

What I Learned/Applied: Gained a few bits to add to my butler’s book, found out having a cigar cutter around is strangely useful. I already largely had the butler’s book, journal, library, time management system, and computer skills. Great material for my butler’s books class. Wardrobe wise, I still stick to my daily slave uniform. 

Module 4: Butler Etiquette  

Resources: Reading Chapter 4 of STW Volume 1. All of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan). Piece from STW Volume 2: ” Of Various Traditional and Modern Butler Concerns”. 

Assignment Types: Essays, and about twenty video etiquette drills, including several rounds of redos. (Each prompt outlined a different tricky situation.  My job was to sketch out a more specific scenario if needed, and film myself, as the majordomo, responding to it.) 

What I Learned/Applied: I wrote more about this in “Etiquette Drills and Compassion”. Ultimately, this module reminded me that compassion is at the core of the soft skills that set the butler industry apart, which was important for me as someone who’s low empathy. 

Module 5: Management and Leadership Principles 

Resources: Reading Chapter 5 of STW Volume 1.

Assignment Types: Primarily essays/written response. This chapter emphasizes checklists and processes, managing resources and problems, creating (and modifying as needed) effective routines, and what makes a good leader. 

What I Learned/Applied: Went through my assorted checklists and routines to apply the principles of this module. I still teach a lot of organizational principles from this module in many of my classes. 

Module 6: Staff Management

Resources: Reading Chapter 6 of STW Volume 1, Home Comforts (Cheryl Mendelson) Chapters 68 to 72, Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners (John Morgan) Chapter 14, pieces from STW Volume 2: “The Placement Game”, “What To Do If There Is Nobody At Home”, “Why Good Employees May Be Hard to Find”, “The Hidden Drug Menace”, “Ethics? That’s Human Resources”. 

Assignment Types: Essays, gaining familiarity with tax forms, comparing and contrasting staffing agencies and vendors (and selecting them), writing vendor contracts. 

What I Learned/Applied: While there’s no other permanent “staff” here, I do work with contractors and such, so several bits were useful and I used this module as an opportunity to revisit some of those things. It also covers record keeping and insurance and such in depth, which I again revisited and was useful. 

Module 7: The Butler’s Relationship with Their Employer

Resources: Reading Chapter 7 of STW Volume 1, pieces from STW Volume 2: “Hope does not Need Rose-tinted Glasses” and “Don’t Just Sit There”. 

Assignment Types: All essays/written response.

What I Learned/Applied: I wrote about this more in “The “Butler’s” Relationship With Their “Employer”. While I first thought this module might not really apply for me, ultimately it’s about proactive, effective, efficient, honest, routine communication, and about trust, respect, and clearly defined roles. I found it applied to many of our communication systems, and revisited a few things based on the principles of this chapter. I teach on many of these systems, as well.

Module 8: Housekeeping 

Resources: Reading Chapter 8 of STW Volume 1. Piece from STW Volume 2: “Appendix 8A”. Home Comforts Chapters 14 to 58. 

Assignment Types: Essay/written response and a lot of practical assignments. Cleaning all kinds of materials, polishing silver, flower arranging, building a fire. Making a bed, working with fabrics, handling laundry. Creating/maintaining housekeeping routines and checklists. Learning basic sewing. Closet organization. Acquiring cleaning tools and learning to use them/creating a cleaning caddy. Managing air quality, lighting, and pests.  

What I Learned/Applied: Hoo boy, now we’re getting into the hard skills. I learned all kinds of fun facts and neat tricks for cleaning every kind of material I can think of and several I hadn’t heard of/identified before. Reorganized every closet in the house, got a humidifier (game changer in Vegas), redid some lighting bits, experimented with polishing silver, improved my flower arranging, started making and using my own homemade cleaners, added/modified a lot to my housekeeping routines and checklists and class material…

Module 9: The Butler, the Kitchen, and the Chef

Resources: Reading Chapter 9 of STW Volume 1. Home Comforts Chapters 8-13. All of Think Life a Chef (Tom Colicchio) and Dictionary of Culinary and Menu Terms (Rodney Dale).

Assignment Types: Essays and practical. Exploring a kitchen supplies store and grocery stores and shopping techniques, assessing kitchen supplies and organization and safety, assessing refrigerator/freezer/pantry management, preparing at least three breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. 

What I Learned/Applied: Got some kitchen storage back in order, inspired me to add some more recipes to my repertoire (which I added to the resources for my culinary service class as well).


(Final Note: I’m currently on Module 10 of 22. Will write another one of these at some point in the future.)