Monday, January 27, 2014

Using Apologies to Build School Culture

Each week City Springs Elementary/Middle School Principal Rhonda Richetta sends a Monday Messenger to her staff members. In this week's Messenger, she talks about how apologies can be incorporated into restorative circles and morning assemblies:
Last Friday I visited Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA) to see the middle school morning assembly they started doing this year, and I was very impressed. Whenever I visit another school, especially HHA, I always see something new that I think we could use at City Springs, maybe not exactly as seen, but in some form that fits us.

One part of the HHA assembly that impressed me was “Apologies”. Students are asked if anyone has an apology for something that happened in that week. I witnessed two students stand and give an apology to a teacher. This was not rehearsed or forced and students also could have given an apology to another student. I thought how well this melded with restorative practices.

I would like you to talk at your team meetings this week about how you feel about incorporating a designated time for apologies as part of what we do at CS. I thought perhaps at the elementary level we could include apologies as part of your circle time on Fridays. We may want to move it to The Assembly at some time in the future. In middle school, I thought we should do it at the morning assembly.
Once you discuss this with your teams, you may come up with even better ideas. More heads together are always better than one. I do want to point out that an abundance of research has been done on apologizing that supports the notion that “apology is crucial to our mental and even physical health” and “an apology leads to empathy and empathy leads to forgiveness.” (Beverly Engel, The Power of Apology, Psychology Today, July 1, 2002).
Teaching empathy is a critical part of restorative practices. If we decide to implement this focus on apology, I will provide you with more information that will help you teach our students the how and why of meaningful apologies. Thank you for discussing this at your team meetings. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.