Students are often surprisingly
willing to apologize for their actions. This, however, may only
be because simply issuing an apology is a easy tactic by which to
escape further penalties. This may occur because expressing blanket
contrition is often made too readily an easy option for them when
not linked to other conditions.
There are different levels
of apology. A hastily uttered OK, I'm sorry, is indeed
an apology, but it is not nearly as meaningful as a frank and more
thoughtful apology expressed before several others: What I
did was wrong and now that you are all present I want to say that
I am sorry for what I did.
Apologizing is one of
the most important social skills a young person must learn to master.
Many students are not proficient in this skill, and thus wrongdoings
should be utilized as opportunities for students to practice the
concept of apology.
A specific written apology
is often a better alternative to a simple blanket verbalization.
When the student composes his apology, he needs to consider what
to say and how to best express himself. In a well formed apology
letter, the student:
- frankly describes
- demonstrates that
he understands the harm that he has caused by his action
- apologizes for what
A boy had pushed a smaller boy two years younger than himself, while
both were on the climbing apparatus in the playground. The younger
boy had fallen to the ground, cutting his lip, which then had started
to bleed. When the incident was discussed immediately afterwards
with the teacher acting as playground monitor, the older boy admitted
readily to what he had done and appeared to understand quite well
that what he had done was dangerous, and mean. He was willing to
apologize "on the spot". The teacher asked him, however,
to first give some thought to how he should apologize, and then
asked the other classmates to participate in a discussion of what
would be an appropriate way to apologize. Ultimately, it was agreed
that the boy should write a frank letter of apology to the the smaller
boy, a letter that the smaller boy could then also show his parents
The fact that the student apologizes for his wrongdoing and indicates
that he is aware of the harmful consequences of his actions are,
however, not necessarily sufficient to convince others, or indeed
the perpetrator himself, that he truly regrets his infraction. In
order to be more meaningful, he shall, when expressing his apology,
also indicate a willingness to address, in some way, the wrong that
he committed. This step is discussed next under the heading "Atonement".