Blogger, educator, and parent JoEllen published a wonderful piece called A Better Way to Say Sorry a few weeks ago. Shout out to my friend & M.Ed. fellow student Niki for punting out such a great read.
JoEllen suggests, wisely, that the typical way we adults handle childhood disputes leaves out the hard work of reconciliation. It's "simple" to make kids go through the motions of "saying sorry," but everyone is left the poorer afterward when the wrong-doer escapes with a halfhearted mumble and the wronged party knows that no one was actually sorry at all.
Redemptive teaching suggests that teachers need to 1) recognize biblically normative practices for human relationships and 2) encourage those practices in our classrooms via 3) aligning our procedures to reinforce the idea of loving God and neighbor, rather than trying to implement "rules" or a "process" that can somehow magically erase problems.
JoEllen came up with four basic steps to use as a pattern for apology with her 4th graders. This pattern is true for all humans, not just kids -- and we would accomplish a lot as educators if we chose to follow the same steps when we find ourselves needing to apologize to our own students.
From her post (please do go read the whole thing)
2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change.
3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.
4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship.
JoEllen's classroom experience corroborates mine: If you model biblical thinking and action in front of your students (whether they're 6 years old or 16), you will see positive change among your learning community.
Rules cannot accomplish nearly as much as following the Great Commandments do in our hearts (and you don't have to be teaching in a "Christian" School to model loving God and neighbor for your students.).