There is no way around it. As humans, we are going to make mistakes and we are going to hurt people. When this happens, in order to move forward, it is important to offer a sincere and meaningful apology. This does not come naturally though. We must work to apologize with sincerity and teach how to apologize to our students.
Throughout our days there are many instances big and small that require us to make an apology. Helping our students to learn when an apology is necessary is an important life skill that will help them to build and maintain relationships throughout their lives. Bumping into someone in the hallway only requires a quick, “Sorry,” or “Pardon me,” but a verbal altercation is going to require a more full and sincere apology.
Teaching students how to apologize does not always involve a how, but also when. If apologies are offered too often they become insincere and can be detrimental instead of meaningful. Helping our students to establish when and how to apologize is a big task.
When to Apologize
When you begin to talk about apologizing it is important to establish when an apology is necessary. Talking about apologies we are referring to the more full apology, not a quick, “Sorry.”
Apologies are expected when you have done someone wrong, either intentionally or not.
Doing someone wrong could mean hurting someone’s feelings or hurting them physically.
This is a great time to work together and come up with a list of examples for when an apology is appropriate.
When NOT to Apologize
When we over apologize our apologies lose meaning. Additionally, there are times when we should not apologize because either we were not in the wrong or we were actually the victim and might be being shamed into apologizing. These situations are tricky for our students and we must be ready to discuss them as they come up and be a source of support.
Why Students Might Not Apologize
There are many reasons a student might be hesitant to apologize, and it is important that we, as teachers, talk
through these instances with them.
- Low self-esteem – students may be under the impression that if they apologize it makes them look weak in front of their peers
- Lack of empathy – when students are unable to understand where the other party is coming from they may not feel that anything wrong was done
- Don’t believe in apologies – some students may not believe that an apology will do any good
Each of these instances can be talked through with the student individually and brought to a conclusion. Often, I have found that the most common instance is a lack of empathy and when you are able to facilitate a student receiving some background knowledge on the situation and how it affects those other than themselves a consensus can be reached.
A Framework for How to Apologize
Modeling for students how to apologize is an important strategy. Providing them with a framework serves to help an apologist to get started. They are then able to modify the framework for the situation.
A simple framework might include:
I am sorry for…
It was wrong of me to…
Next time I will… instead
Can you forgive me?
(Either a thank you for forgiveness or a statement of faith in continued progress.)
This framework is a good starting place for our students. With time they will learn to put their apologies more in their own words.
Our students must also be taught that just because they apologize does not mean the other party will accept their apology. This is a tough blow to many students who think they did their part and the world should move on.
Some ideas for when students do not accept an apology:
Thank you for listening. I will continue to work to earn your trust.
Thank you. Our friendship means a lot to me and I want to earn your forgiveness, but I understand if you can’t right now.
Overall, I try to emphasize with students that the point of an apology is maintaining a friendship, and everything they have to say should come from a place of friendship.
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