This term some of the learners in my class have been testing the boundaries, and not making the most of their learning time. Some had been rude and disrespectful towards myself or their peers. When addressing this with them, and requesting that they apologise to the person they had wronged I felt that the apologies were very heartless and insincere. This reminded me of a blogpost I had read earlier this year called A Better Way To Say Sorry. I dug it out again and considered how this may be useful for the students in my class, not just those who were acting up, but all of them.
As adults we (mostly) know how to interact with people and how to negotiate differences between ideas and opinions with one another. However, children are often still working out this ability to negotiate differences and as a result can offend or upset others, therefore I thought that teaching the art of an apology to the whole class might be a worthwhile endeavour. However, I was also aware that this lesson was risky and might go horribly wrong....
During the lesson we acted out several scenario's which included both bad and good examples of a sincere apology, where learners identified the apologies that did not include the four steps, they would then work on correcting them to make it complete.
After completing this activity I was unsure about it's affect. Much of the problem behaviour still continued, however now I had a reference point for guiding learners to a better restorative process with their peers. Particularly Step 3. where learners make a positive plan for how they will behave in the future.
This lesson did not solve the problem overnight, but three weeks later, I realise that it had made an affect, as one of my learners waited to speak with me before morning tea. He launched into a 4 step apology of his disruptive behaviour from the prior day. Delighted that he had taken this on board and used his own initiative to apologise I gratefully granted his forgiveness, and thanked him for his sincere apology.
What I learned from this experience is that it is worth persevering with things that I find important as a teacher. Though learners may not adapt straight away, eventually they do take things on board. Similar to teaching curriculum subjects, they do eventually come to terms with more complex mathematical strategies and comprehension, just like they can with more complex ideas. Also, teaching is not just about teaching the curriculum, it is also about teaching life skills.