Developing strong and healthy social skills is a big job for teachers and parents alike. Childhood is full of mistakes being made, limits being tested, and figuring out what type of person we are and how we fit in. We want the children in our care to be good readers, interesting writers, curious scientists, and capable mathematicians, sure - but most of all we want them to be good, kind people.
Therefore, it should not come as too big a shock to see "How to Apologize" on the morning schedule, right along with math and spelling:
Recently, an article was shared with me about apologizing, and how it is a skill that can actually be taught in a meaningful way. Too often adults will demand that one child "say your sorry!" to another child, and it becomes a meaningless exercise. The child apologizing may not mean it, or may not even understand why they are apologizing. The child being apologized to usually feels frustrated because they don't feel that it was sincere. No one ends up feeling great about the situation, and - beyond that - it usually doesn't help keep future mistakes from happening.
I started today's lesson by reading a book:
This is a story about a child who thinks he can get away with anything because a quick "sorry!" takes care of it. It is also about another child who goes along with it because the teaser/bully is one of his only friends, and is considered "cool".
After reading the story, I showed the students the chart that will be in our room. It lists that FOUR steps to a great apology. We role-played in pairs different situations where an apology is needed. The steps may seem cumbersome at first, and not as easy as they seem, but I think it will make a real change in how children think through their actions:
1) I'm sorry for .... list specific action, not "being mean" or "making you mad", but perhaps "saying that no one likes you and you can't play with us".
2) This is wrong because ... tell why it is wrong, and NOT because "I got in trouble". How about, "I can see how your feelings are hurt, and it was an unkind thing to say".
3) In the future I .... tell what I WILL do, not what I won't do. This was the trickiest one. Saying "I won't say it again" is less effective than "I will include you when you want to play and I will say kind things".
4) Will you forgive me?
We also talked about the good feelings that usually come when a person finds it in their heart to ACCEPT an apology too.