I feel like I’ve been apologising an awful lot to my pupils recently and, actually, I’m glad. I think one of the most important things we can teach our pupils, and our children, is the art of saying sorry. We encourage children to do it all the time (whether they genuinely mean it or not) but do we say it often enough? How else will they learn to say a heart-felt sorry if they don’t see us model it for them?
“Max why are you wandering around the classroom when you are meant to be doing your maths work?!” Oh yeah – I sent you to the office to run an errand for me and then forgot about it, so actually you were doing exactly what I asked you to. Sorry Max!
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Anna Wombwell and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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“What do you mean, ‘where should I sit?!’ There is only one seat left – hurry up and sit down next to Charlie!” But I forgot I told you last week not to sit next to Charlie because you were chatting too much and you have obediently remembered this.
“Why are you not wearing shoes in the classroom AGAIN?! I’ve told you before, you must have shoes on your feet at all times (unless you are in the tent). I’d hate for you to stand on a pin!” Ah but I’ve just come across a really interesting article about how children may actually behave better and do better in school if they leave their shoes in the cloakroom like they do in Scandinavia. Maybe the teacher is actually wrong about this insistence on wearing shoes at all times and just not drop pins?! Surely not… we’ve been taught that the teacher is never wrong?!
Then there’s that awful moment when you realise that you forgot you asked a child to hang back as the class went to the dinner hall so you could have a chat to them about their behaviour, and you taught them a bigger lesson than you had intended by leaving them there whilst you went home for your own dinner. (Or is that one just me?!… I did remember to go back before I actually left the car park!)
But sometimes sorry just isn’t good enough. This week my class performed a fantastic little play about Highland aliens on a ‘proper stage’ with fancy lighting and a smoke machine. Luckily for them, I forgot to make a very important prop (a chocolate cake) and had to send somebody out to go on a mission to buy the real thing. I was so proud of my little troopers that I couldn’t deny their polite request to eat this very tasty prop we had acquired and I promised them we would eat it in celebration of their achievement at school the next day. (Far too many children had been sick on the bus that day for me to even consider eating it before our return journey!). However, despite a rigorous bus check at the end of our journey, I suddenly realised (whilst watching Eastenders on my couch that night) that the cake had been left on the bus! Now this is an instance when sorry simply won’t cut it (no matter how heart-felt) and a replacement was promptly bought.
I’ve found myself apologising to my class for the amount of time we have had to spend on learning this play. We had rehearsal upon rehearsal and my class would all tell you that I am very particular about where to stand, how to say your line, what actions to do, which hand to use – I’m hard to please but when they ‘get it’ (and they always do) we are elated together. It’s hard work to get there though and, especially with younger children, it’s so important to acknowledge this with an explanation as to why we are doing this. “I know we have done the play once already today but we have to do another dress rehearsal this afternoon. Sorry, I know you are getting a bit fed up of it, but who can tell me why we’re putting so much work and effort into this?” I’m confident each and every one of them would say that it was worth it.
I recently did a discovery session at the SCEL 2016 conference and spoke about my action research on play. Since completing this project, I have used elaborate play areas in our class for our topic work and I’d say that I’m a strong advocate of play. However, it was only when I revisited my research that I realised that I actually don’t let my class play freely as often as I used to – and my research was all about the benefits of just leaving them to it (especially when you have went to all the efforts of creating a fabulous topic-related play area with them!). I went into class the next day with a big apology for not letting them play enough and a pledge to change this (which they were delighted to hear!). As I proceeded to sit back and watch them at play in our space themed classroom, I was heartened to see them working together to make up their own little plays about aliens in Gaelic and excitedly show me pictures from books about space or make Lego models of the space probes on Mars. They demonstrated beautifully how much they have been learning, and all of their own accord.
I think that teachers are more and more worried about apologising to children, and their parents, as it acknowledges some form of wrongdoing that can potentially be used against them. In today’s climate of blame and accountability it can be a dangerous thing to do. But, in my limited experience, children who hear you acknowledge an error are much more forgiving than those who feel wronged and have had this brushed under the carpet. And those parents who know you have acknowledged an error are much happier parents than those who find a fault which hasn’t been addressed.