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“But Teachers Never Apologize”

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I’ve written posts about the importance of students hearing teachers say “I’m sorry” when we mess-up. You can read them at:

More On Saying “I’m Sorry” To Students

The Importance Of Saying “I’m Sorry” To Students

I believe hearing an adult make a sincere apology to a student has an impact way beyond the person who was wronged. And an apology to an entire class is also sometimes appropriate.

Earlier this week I apologized to a student after I had questioned him about not turning into an assignment, which I later found in some papers on my desk.

His response:

“But teachers never apologize.”

He wasn’t trying to be serious or funny, and was just making an observation out of his personal experience.

It’s difficult for me to believe that it’s that uncommon. I’m sure my colleagues with whom I’m close do it. But it got me wondering: do you apologize to students, and what percentage of your colleagues do you believe do it?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

10 Comments

  1. I always apologize to students. It’s kind of funny because it seems to make them nervous, but I really emphasize manners, so admitting when I make a mistake is huge.

  2. I always apologize and think that it shows our kids that we are human. It also shows them that it doesn’t minimize us by doing so and it is actually a way to gain respect.

  3. I’ve taught 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades, and I’ve apologized to all of them. Sometimes an apology to the class and sometimes to an individual. I think it teaches students that teachers are human and they care. Thanks for your post.

  4. Always. Kids need to know that we are human and make mistakes too, and we need to model how to make a sincere apology.

  5. I think that we need to be honest and human with out classes. We cannot put ourselves as teachers above others. Part of being human with a class is making mistakes and then owning up to them and taking responsibility when they occur. When I was in the classroom, apologizing to students was a regular occurrence. I would make mistakes and my relationship with the kids would improve because I would apologize when I did.

  6. I always try to apologize to students if the mistake was mine. I’m not sure that the problem is always teachers specifically, but the public in general. I find that a lot of times people don’t feel like they need to apologize for the “little” things….or even the big things!

  7. Definitely.

    Jason and pgrays outline the reasons why perfectly.

  8. I appreciate everybody responses.

    How common do you think your attitude is among teachers in general?

    Larry

  9. I do apologize, but I know not all teachers do. I can’t imagine how a teacher can expect students to take responsibility for their actions if we don’t show them what that looks like. Apologizing is part of that.

  10. Hi Larry,

    I am a Teacher Candidate at Brock University in Hamilton, Ontario, and as such, am just learning the ropes of teaching. I think most of the people who commented hit the nail on the head. When a teacher appologizes to a class, a few things happen.

    Firstly, it teaches manners and sets a great example for the students.

    Secondly, it show that teachers are human (as most of the replies have already mentioned). More than showing that teachers are human, it makes teachers more approachable, and not so intimidating. This helps to improve (most of the time) the relationship a teacher has with their class.

    Lastly, it promotes an environment in the classroom where students understand that mistakes are OK. Sometimes the stress on students needing to be “perfect” is almost too much to bear. By showing that even teachers (who are supposed to know everything, right:)) make mistakes, it can alleviate some of that stress, and create a more comfortable atmosphere for participation and sharing in the classroom.

    I do not know if this is the common belief amongst teachers, but I sure wish it was.

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