I am human. I sometimes have bad days, or display a short temper in the classroom. I try to keep in mind The Best Piece Of Classroom Management Advice I’ve Ever Read (Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?), but sometimes don’t remember in time. When that happens, I try to remember to say:

“I’m sorry.”

Actually, I try to remember to say more than that, and the best description of the formula I try to use comes from an article about how nurses should make apologies to patients (The power of apology: how saying sorry can leave both patients and nurses feeling better). The writer uses the description:

“regret, reason and remedy”

For example, today I was a bit sharp with two students who were paired-up to do some work in my mainstream ninth-grade English class, but, instead, were just sitting there while everyone else in class was focusing on the task at hand — taking turns reading a passage to one another. A few minutes later I came back to them and simply said, “I’m sorry I barked at you earlier. You’re both excellent students, and I was frustrated that you weren’t doing what I had asked you to do. I could have said so in a better way, and I’ll try to show more patience in the future.”

It was, in effect, a use of the “regret, reason, and remedy” formula — though I hadn’t actually read that article until I started doing a little research later today on the Web about saying “I’m sorry.”

I find that saying sincere “I’m sorry’s” in this way can go a long way in strengthening my relationships with students, and using that kind of three part formula can help communicate that sincerity. I don’t feel a need to extract any kind of admission of fault from the student because I’m just taking responsibility for my own behavior.

These “I’m sorry’s,” I think (hope), can also act as models for students on how they might consider acting in multiple situations. I’m not sure how many adults in the world they see apologizing — especially apologizing to young people.

What has been your experience saying “I’m sorry” to students?