When kids spill their snack, they say, ‘I’m sorry’.
When kids forget their homework, they say, ‘I’m sorry’.
When kids call each other names on the playground, they say, ‘I’m sorry’.
When kids hit each other when they get frustrated, they say, ‘I’m sorry’.
Something about that bugs me.
There’s got to be a difference between apologizing for something that was small and apologizing for a deep hurt. There should be a distinction between apologizing for small slights, such as bumping into someone…and actually hitting someone.
When there is intent to wound, whether verbally or physically…I work to help my kids understand how to apologize in a way that starts the healing process and builds back community.
Apologizing in a way that is deep and meaningful is a skill.
Not every child will apologize the same way, but they need to learn how to do it well to maintain community. Being good at apologizing will help them at home, at school, and some day in their work place.
No one is perfect, so, it’s something that they will need to be good at for the rest of their lives.
This year, if you read my blog, you’ll see a variety of different post that evaluate the idea of empathy and how it relates to character development. I’m really digging into that this year in my own practice, so, I thought I’d share some of that with you!
Work with students on being aware of their surroundings and the reactions of their peers.
If you’re telling a funny story about something that someone did, and everyone is laughing, but the subject of the story is NOT…it’s possible that they are not comfortable with that particular story being told. When kids are playing together, and then one isolates…that may be an indication of some hurt as well…kids need to SELF-MONITOR for signs that their peers are uncomfortable with their behavior towards them. It takes a TON of practice…but I’m all for helping them get that practice through role play and teachable moments.
When working with students on these kinds of interpersonal issues, I often encourage them to ask questions about why another person is hurt by their actions. This is a tough step for the person who CAUSED the hurt and must be done carefully. It takes discipline and self-restraint to stand and listen to someone point out your faults once you give them the opportunity. Students must learn how to bear this discomfort to get to the end result which is restitution. They need to be LISTENING for where they went wrong so that they can empathize. The best way for them to see this type of behavior is at home with parents, but…they will occasionally have these opportunities at school and we should capitalize on them!
This for me is a key step. In order to really KNOW if someone is listening to what I’m really saying…restating helps with that. As teachers we can model that in the classroom informally. There are tons of opportunities to do that. For example:
‘So, if I’m understanding you correctly, John…you think that the main character is courageous because he was sacrificing himself for his friend?’
‘So, what you’re saying is, you are having trouble getting your homework done because you are worried about things at home?’
Get your students to restate the particular thing that is causing the problem.
And make them wait to hear from their peer if that is indeed the issue.
Once it’s confirmed…then the student needs to consider how to frame the apology.
Students need to be direct in this communication. This is tough, because this is the beginning of accepting responsibility for behavior that was unacceptable. If you’ve created an element of trust between yourself and the student, it will make this more manageable for sure.
Don’t be afraid to reaffirm what you heard from the offended student. Make sure that the student who caused the harm is clear, and then cue them to begin an apology with their own words.
The best way to start to bring about healing between two students is when the one who did the wrong thing accepts responsibility. Throughout the year, as you team build and create community…remind students that unity is paramount! Getting along, working together well makes you happy. This is one of those times where sometimes, students must learn that building character will sometimes require them to sacrifice a bit of their own autonomy for the greater good of the class.
In cases where there can’t be specific restitution, such as with property loss…students can at least offer the promise of not doing the behavior again. Where I can have students give something up to replace what they damaged, I try to do that. It helps them to understand the idea of loss. Since something precious was taken from their friend…losing something of their own to replace what was damaged or lost will help them understand, in part, the feelings they might have brought about in their peer.
This may seem to be a time consuming strategy, but…with lots of modeling and role play, when there is actually an opportunity to live this out…the events unfold rather rapidly for students who are already aware of the end goals!
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy a companion post on a few tips that I consider in building classroom community with an emphasis on character development.
|Click HERE for that post.|