14 June 2008

mini bite

Have you noticed when you have a fever that your thoughts seem to come in isolated chunks? They don't connect to anything that came before. And, try as you might, forging a link to the next logical thought is nearly impossible. It's as if you're pushing with all your might against an immovable object. You just can't push through.

I guess that gives me blog posts in mini-bites. They won't be tidy posts, cleverly tied back to the beginning. They're just...random.

I won't post them all together the way they are in my head. That would be way too confusing. So, I'll just give you a little mini-bite here and there...

Lauri posted awhile back (okay, so there was a before to this) about the recent discipline episode of J&K+8. While I do think J&K do much right, I think they're missing a big step. No, I'm not a parent. But, I have much experience disciplining children. I'll go ahead and brag a bit here and let you know that all our "special" teachers always rave about how well-behaved my classes are--regardless of school or grade. Sure, they're a little noisy. But they're kind, creative, respectful, responsible and obedient. I think that makes my observations share-worthy. Besides, it's my blog. ;>

In J&K+8, they talked about how important it is to have a child apologize after there has been misbehaviour. I completely agree. An apology should be made to the person who was wronged.

What I think J&K (and many others) are missing is the forgiveness part. Not only does the offender need to apologize, the wronged party needs to forgive them. And, once forgiveness is offered, the event is over. Finished. We keep no record of wrongs. When I mess up, I apologize and ask the children to forgive me. (They get very tickled at this. They love to tell me they forgive me.)

I work hard to make sure that there is no stigma to apologizing. An apology does not have to be an admission of guilt. It doesn't have to mean that your actions were intended to be hurtful. But, when you have hurt some one with your words or your actions, even if it was unintentional, you should express regret for that hurt and apologize.

And when someone apologizes, you accept it graciously and forgive them. And then you shake hands or hug and move forward as friends.

That's one thought rattling around in my brian. I think that the reconciliation process is incomplete without forgiveness being offered. And, I think without offering forgiveness, one is more likely to cherish up those wrongs. That would be harmful to our sense of community in the classroom.

By this point in the year, instead of bringing an offense to my attention and having me walk them through the

did-you-tell-her/is-it-over/shake-hands-and-be-friends-or-will-you hug

my students will tell me, "Such and such happened, but don't worry. We already got to the hugging and everything." I consider it a lesson well-taught when they can do that on their own.


Anonymous said...

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kim said...

Good point about the forgiveness. I really struggle with this because I feel like if I have to tell the kids to apologize, then it is not sincere. I know the action is important, but this is a tough one for me. Same is true with forgiveness. I will be the first to admit I do not have any good answers on this subject... one area of my parental weaknesses.

Suzanne said...

I for one like your random bits.

Lauri said...

Great point & I could not agree more...

When I have been short tempered or cranky, I often ask Livi for forgiveness . she now just says with a before I ask " That's ok Mom, I forgive you"

John often says that I am undermining my own authority when I do this, but I think that we can teach a powerful lesson when as adults we admit our own mistakes and teach about a clean slate.

Hope your feeling better soon & fever free

Annie said...

Hm.... I agree to a point. Of course I am writing as a person who teaches confession and forgiveness as sacramental moments. (In my classes I prepare children for their first Confession.) Also, I write as a mother whose children have been ripped around by "discipline rubrics".

First - Yes! You are so right! The incident is NOT over until there has been confession AND forgiveness. The thing I've realized more and more lately is that it can't go the other way very well; you really can't forgive a person who won't be sorry. I mean, you can do YOUR part....but your forgiveness does not "hit" anything. Like an arrow not hitting a target.

However, I do think that when children are "forced" - either by a discipline rubric, or by parents to say "I'm sorry", then their "confession" of wrongdoing may very well not be sincere. It may be simply a way to get the incident "over with". It may even (as in the school situations where those in authority are not dealing with the children as individuals) cause the miscreant to compound their fault by lying about their "sorrow". True sorrow means that you not only wish you could "take back" the wrong you did, but also that you are promising to do your best to never offend in that way again. In so many situations, the "I'm sorry" really means, "I'm sorry I got caught."

In those situations, I think it is not fair to expect the person who was wronged to say they forgive someone who they know will, if given half a chance, do the same (or worse) again. This reacently occurred with my son. He was forced to "accept the apology" of a boy who has been - no two words about it - bullying him all year long. This boy has got some real issues which will not go away easily, and to force Sergei to accept the apology of someone who is sneering as he apologizes and thinking up the next mean thing to do, is really just compounding the wrong, in my view.

It is Sergei who feels "in the wrong" because he CANNOT sincerely forgive while further wrongs are being planned against him. Sergei, the person with integrity, is forced to say what he cannot mean, while the boy whose faults include the propensity to lie, lies through his teeth saying he is "sorry".

I haven't seen the show - and expect you are right in the incident you refer to! However, I just think that forgiveness and contrition are complicated issues!

kate said...

I'm sorry, Annie, that your children have had a difficult time with apologies and forgiveness at school. Quite naturally, our own experiences influence our point of view. I can tell you that in my experience, with primarily 6-8 year olds, when they see that a classmate is hurt, that they are the reason for someone's tears, they *are* sorry. An apology in our classroom doesn't happen until both parties have a chance to talk, to explain how they feel/felt, what their intentions were, where things went wrong... I do think their apologies are sincere.

I also think that an apology needs to be accepted. I don't think that you can put a condition on it. You can't judge another person's heart. And you can't change another person. An apology is not a guarantee that the offense will not be repeated. It is regret for a past action, sorrow for a pain inflicted. And, 70 x 7 is a looooot of times that we're to forgive.

That doesn't mean that you put yourself in a position to be hurt again. I think removing yourself from hurtful situations is important.

Desite denominational differences, I think we can agree that we are commanded to be loving. (John 15:12) And love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Cor. 13:5)

I agree that it's harder to forgive people who have not asked for fogivemess. I've had to do it. But, not forgiving those people was only hurting me. I needed to get rid of all bitterness, wrath and anger and forgiveness was the way for me to do that. And if I waited until those people apologized, I would never have the chance to forgive.

Anonymous said...

Kate, I have a feeling that the "denominational differences" you mentioned might have a lot to do with Annie's take. (Annie, you must be Catholic?)

Coming from a reformed background, I applaud your take on forgiveness. I think what you're teaching your students is great! I'm impressed you can do all that in a public school.

I wish my child was in your class!


Annie said...

I am 100% for forgiveness! I don't think we disagree about the value of apologizing and forgiving at all.

I think the situations are just so different that I shouldn't have mentioned it. The incidents you refer to sound more like accidents, petty selfishness or mere thoughtlessness. And one wonderful way for children to be made aware of others' feelings is to address them! While the one doing the "forgiving" is also made aware of our inter-relatedness - and possibly learning a lesson for the future.

My reaction is the "protective mother" in me heartsick because there are few children as gentle and naturally forgiving as Sergei. He's had a whole year of having to endure deliberately cruel, bullying behavior from another boy every on a daily basis. I finally told one of the teachers to watch for it, and he was witnessed in action, then forced to say "I'm sorry" to Sergei in front of the principal, and the assistant principal. So the boy dutifully apologizes for this ONE thing, acting as though nothing of this sort had ever occurred previously. Sergei stood there actively fearful of what was going to happen the first time the staffs' backs were turned. (As it turned out, wisely.)

A fourteen year old bully, and basically sweet 7-8 year olds are really not comparable situations.

Jenni said...

Well done Kate! I wish I had been as successful with some of my 6th graders!

Forgiveness is very important and is often missing from the whole apology interaction. All to often I see kids acting smug when they get an apology, like they won some battle. Then the person offering the apology feels even worse for having done it!

kate said...

I agree that a 14-year-old bully is different from my students. I do have one with potential for that. It's my hope that teaching them about apologies and forgiveness now, that they won't be smug when they're 12 (Jenni, I've so seen that face--like a victory has been won and that's what I want to do away with. I don't want an apology to be a victory or a defeat.) or a bully when they're 14.

Praying right now for Sergei's protection.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Deborah--I wish my child were in your class.

Anonymous said...

"We already got to the hugging and everything." cracks me up. That's great that they are working through it on their own now. I think I have a while to go before the 5 year old can get to that level...

Lea said...

Excellent post! Thanks for this tidbit of great advice. I had missed the forgiveness part too, when teaching the boys to apologize. I needed this reminder! Hope you feel better soon.