I am doing 20 hours of state-mandated ESE training in order to renew my teaching certificate next year. For that, I am giving up five Saturdays, 4 hours at a time, to attend a course titled Managing Anti-Social Behavior.
Today we closed with a short discussion about making children apologize because we know they don't usually mean it.
All the way home I have been thinking about that: the purpose of the apology.
Most of the participants agreed that they didn't want a child to be forced to apologize when the child doesn't mean it. Case in point: the child has misbehaved, the parent has come to the school, and has the child stand in front of the teacher, "Apologize to Ms. Chalkdust."
The facilitator suggested that a possible solution would be to discuss with the child what it really meant to be sorry, which others thought might even model for parents a better way of dealing with their child.
As for me, I don't bother with that. I don't care if a child means it or not. That's a struggle I am not going to engage in ... for I cannot win. I cannot make a child mean anything and I don't think anyone else can.
I offered my solution. I simply say, "Thank you. I accept your apology." And then I move on.
What is the purpose of an apology?
It is not repentance. It is not saying I will change my ways in the future. It is not even an admission of wrongdoing. It does not require a feeling of sorrow. In that sense, phony apologies abound. Think back to the last time you heard a politician apologize. Was it real or was it calculated to stop the damage to their career and restore their reputation in the eyes of the public?
People say, "I'm sorry," all the time and they don't mean it.
Apologies happen when a breach of relationship has taken place. They are the means by which persons repair the breach to restore normality.It is a part of etiquette, of manners, and those never require sincerity. They are the social glue that holds human civilization together.
An apology is a recognition that something has gone wrong in a relationship, an acknowledgment of the importance of that relationship, and an act on the part of one person toward the other to restore the relationship.
An apology today carries no guarantee that the person will not commit the same offense tomorrow. To require that is to require more than human nature can bear. You are asking Adam to spit out the apple and Eve to tread on the head of the snake. It is not going to happen.
But! An "I'm sorry," however forced or insincere, restarts the relationship. When a student apologizes to a teacher, that teacher has obtained the necessary means to move forward and continue to work with the student for the common goals they share. Nothing more is needed.