Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Teaching Through Modeling "I'm Sorry"

As a first year teacher I do things just because others have said it is a good idea to do. Theoretically I know why these things are suggested, but I mostly just blindly follow them. Today I understand why one of those ideas is worth it.

That idea is modeling how to say you are sorry by apologizing to children when you make a mistake. My third or fourth week I raised my voice to speak to a sixth grader. I did not perceive it as yelling because I was simply talking over the crowded band room, but he perceived it as yelling at him. I spoke to him privately in the hall, apologized for hurting his feelings, and went back to class. His attitude was defiant and standoffish for the rest of the period.

During the next few weeks, he was still trying to figure me out. But I pretended not to know what was going on. I treated him kindly, greeted him by name, and kept teaching. I acted as if we were on good terms.

Yesterday, he and a friend were talking in class because neither of them had brought their instruments. I told his friend to move to the back to fill out the alternate assignment and instead of his friend getting up to move, he got up in quite the huff. I explained that it was not him that was to move, but his friend. He started talking back to me angrily, saying that his friend had not done anything and it wasn't fair. We got into a back and forth, but this time all I said was a calm, "Please sit down." I must have repeated it twenty times but it felt like a hundred. In the moment I thought he would not sit down, that he would stand there defiantly forever. But he eventually did sit down and his friend moved to the back.

But that's not really the interesting part. The best part about all of this happened after class when he apologized to me for his behavior. I don't think this would have happened if I hadn't apologize to him. I believe he apologized because I followed the advice of those who have taught before me, and showed him how to say you're sorry for being human once in a while.

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