Monday, April 9, 2012

Hard to Say I'm Sorry

One of the first concerts I attended was a Chicago/Beach Boys concert at a ballpark.  The only pertinence that fact has to today's post is that the song "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" was performed.  It was an okay song, quickly forgotten until recently when I threatened to make my class listen to Chicago instead of Adele if they didn't shape up.  When "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" started playing I recalled a situation that happened a few years ago when I taught a K/1 class.

I had quite a band of merry men that year: the scholars, the spitters, the singers, the chair huckers, and because this was MY class, the yogis. One of my darlings was such a bright kid, a perfectionist.  He didn't want ANY attention, positive or negative.  If only I could oblige at all times we got on quite nicely. However, when we shared space with 15 other younglings this little one would inevitably tussle with someone once in a while.

One morning he bumped into a little girl "on accident" (I love that term).  The other kiddo fell and squawked for a while.  She had already mastered the histrionic outburst we all expect in middle school.  The others grew indignant on her behalf and DEMANDED an apology from my young friend.  He, in turn, shut down and grew more agitated by the second.

*****an aside here.....forcing kids to apologize can be a futile practice.  It's not like teaching kids to say "excuse me," "please and thank you."  Making a kiddo say "I'm sorry," is forcing them to admit to an emotion they might not be feeling.  It's a tough call, but something to consider when you have two aggrieved parties.******

Back to the "crisis."  I knew this kid was NOT going to apologize.  He was embarrassed, the star of one of those "wanna get away" commercials. So I called a meeting.  He reluctantly came, sitting just outside the circle.  When everyone gathered I started talking about how we can apologize.  Sometimes we can say "I'm sorry," and that is sufficient.  But other times we really mess up and "sorry" just doesn't cut it.  That's when we need to practice "apologies of action" (check it out with Responsive Classroom).  These apologies of action are based on FIXING the offense.  Examples include fixing a toppled tower of blocks, getting a new sheet of paper for the one that got ripped, sharing things one admires about a friend whose feelings one just hurt, etc.

 I also said that the words "I'm sorry" can be tough to spit out.

Then I shared with the class how I would use the ASL apology sign with my husband.  Sometimes we would offend the other in a group setting, without intention, and the sign language apology was a subtle way to make amends without a great deal of fuss. I showed the class this sign.  They all practiced it, and then we went onto other ways to apologize.  As I encouraged the kids to share their ideas I noticed my little guy call out to the girl he bumped.  Once he had her attention he signed "I'm sorry."

Could any teacher be more proud?  I was elated my kiddo found a safe way to communicate.  Needless to say, I now include this lesson with every class of any age, early on in the school year.  It's hard to say "I'm sorry."  Hopefully my students find it a little easier now.

ASL sign for apologize:  How to sign "I'm sorry."

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