“Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, you’re in troooooouuuuuuuble!” said one fourth grader to another.
“What’s going on?” I asked, turning on my heels and heading toward them.
“Joaquim just gave her the finger,” Sasha said as she sat wide-eyed, pointing.
“Is that true, Joaquim?” I asked, wondering why he would do that to shy, reserved Dana.
“Yes,” he said, avoiding eye contact.
Joaquim admitted the truth. His gesture was unprovoked. He was just in a bad mood.
“That’s no excuse,” I said, and I asked him to apologize.
He walked over to Dana’s desk where she sat writing. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Dana looked him in the eye and said sincerely, “I forgive you.” Then she smiled and went back to her work. Joaquim was startled. He looked confused as he walked back to his desk.
Dana’s words were so refreshing. In the ten years I had been teaching, I had never heard a student utter the phrase I forgive you. Typically, the offended student remained angry and mumbled, “That’s okay,” or said, “Whatever.” But nobody ever said, “I forgive you.” Nobody. Dana had not done anything wrong, but she had quickly and earnestly forgiven Joaquim. She had done it without grimacing or complaining or reminding everyone that she didn’t deserve his gesture. Nope. Just forgave him, plain and simple.
I want to be more like Dana. Sometimes I mistakenly believe I can control a situation by holding my offender hostage, not letting him off the hook by forgiving him. But nothing could be further from the truth. Dana proved it. She was completely in control, and she single-handedly moved the class from controversy back to schoolwork with her kindness.
More than any other time of the school year, during this last month, we all need and should extend forgiveness. As we work with tired co-workers who have been giving of themselves all year and students who have shared a classroom and a lunchroom and a playground all day every day, we would be smart to make Dana’s three words a part of our daily routine.
Action Step: So many students act out at the end of the school year. Squabbles occur every day. It’s the perfect time to teach students to say, “I forgive you.” We can do this by modeling with our own behavior or by role playing as a class. Teaching forgiveness is not part of the academic curriculum. It’s not necessarily even part of the new social-emotional curriculum. But it should be. Wouldn’t you agree?