How To Rid Your Class of Fake Apologies

A Word On Third: How To Rid Your Class of Fake Apologies

Hi, Teachers!

Picture this: 

You're just coming in from recess and the kids are very wiggly. You've just gotten into the classroom and Katie starts complaining to you that Natalie excluded her from a recess game. You're flustered because you didn't get to everything on your to-do list during lunch, and you have to launch into math right now. You call Natalie over and ask them each about what happened. The rest of the kids are getting louder and louder, waiting on the carpet for class to begin. It becomes clear that this is going to take some time, so you tell the class to open a book while you address this. Katie and Natalie are still battling it out, and it is becoming evident that Natalie definitely did exclude Katie. You aren't successfully getting her to see how Katie was feeling, you're under pressure to start class, and that's when it comes out of your mouth.

"Natalie, tell Katie you're sorry." Natalie looks at you, and her eyebrows furrow. 

"SORRY." She rolls her eyes as she walks away in a huff. 

You can tell she didn't mean it, but she did say it. And what can you do about it anyway? Katie looks visibly annoyed, but you have to teach now. You tell the class to come to the carpet to start math.

Sound familiar? I bet it does! But rest-assured... it doesn't need to be a problem anymore. Teaching students how to give apologies of action is an amazing tool that you can give to your students... and yourself! 

A Word On Third: How To Rid Your Class of Fake Apologies

Apologies of action are different than your typical apology because... well, they're sincere! They include words or actions that are decided upon by the person who needs to do the apologizing. Here's how to teach this to your kids.

1. Start by having a discussion about apologies.
I like to talk to the kids about what happens when we break the rules. Sometimes we break rules and it hurts a person's feelings. I ask kids if they have ever had their feelings hurt. Undoubtedly, everyone raises their hands. I also ask the kids if anyone has ever hurt someone else's feelings. Most children will raise their hands for this one too.

Then, I ask the kids if they have ever received a forced apology. Everyone agrees that it feels awful. What I do next surprises kids. Assuming you aren't working in a Responsive Classroom school, it will probably surprise your kids too. I ask the kids how they felt when they gave a forced apology. Everyone also agrees that it feels terrible to say sorry when you are not ready.

2. Brainstorm ways to fix a person's hurt feelings.
I chart these ideas with the class. I usually have to guide the conversation at the beginning so the kids understand what I mean, but they take charge of the conversation as soon as they understand what I'm asking of them. The kids chart things like: inviting that person to play with you, making a card for that person, walking that person to the nurse if you hurt him or her (which I believe is only a good strategy in the case of carelessness), giving that person a compliment, and giving a sincere apology. I talk to the kids about how apologizing is still a kind thing to do--but only if it is genuine. What I do next is have the class create a class book with all of these strategies. If we don't have as many ideas as people in the class, the students work together. Here's this year's book.

A Word On Third: How To Rid Your Class of Fake Apologies

I also make sure to discuss what giving a sincere apology might sound like. I do a lot of interactive modeling around this. In my classroom, should one choose to apologize, I tend to expect something like this: "I'm sorry for _____. I will be more careful next time/I won't do it again." 

These ways to fix hurt feelings are now ways of giving an apology of action instead of an insincere apology. 

3. Teach and model how to request and give apologies of action.
All I do for this is interactively model giving and requesting the apology. Here's a great article by Responsive Classroom on interactive modeling. The kicker here is that I don't say sorry. I model this a few different ways. Each time I model something, the kids have to notice exactly what I did. It's really an inquiry lesson about social skills. I only ask guiding questions if I have to, but I prefer to let them do all the thinking.

First, I set up the scene. We pretend I said something rude to a student which hurt his/her feelings. I've already talked to this student ahead of time so he/she can prepare. I tell that student that they should say, "Miss Savage, I need an apology of action for saying ____." I make sure the kids notice that the person requesting an apology of action does not ask for it. Instead, they state that they need one. We talk about assertion here.

Next, I respond by saying, "Ok. I need a little bit of time. I'll come back when I'm ready." After I've "cooled off" (we discuss how appropriate lengths of time might vary depending on the situation, and that some situations might not need cooling off), I go to the apology of action book and look through it. After I find an apology style I'm happy using, I give that apology to the student. 

It will require some re-modeling from time to time, but that's the gist of it. You'll need to adapt it to your class as you see fit. Below, you can see a student wrote a note as an apology of action and popped it on someone's desk. It was simple and didn't use up a lot of time, but THIS. IS. SO. POWERFUL. for your classroom community and individual students. I would never go back to my annoying, frustrating forced apologies. It was a lose-lose situation.

A Word On Third: How To Rid Your Class of Fake Apologies

 Now that I use this system, when students have a problem and they come to me, I always ask them, "How do you think you will solve that?" This is usually the conflict-resolution strategy my students depend on. I love it because it's student-centered and... well, it actually works.

How do you handle conflict resolution in your classroom? Comment below!

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