I’m Sorry!

As an elementary school teacher, I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I hear, “I’m sorry,” many times during the school day. Whenever problems arise, students apologize. Children have become so accustomed to apologizing — learning that it’s the correct thing to do when they make a mistake — that they default to this “sorry” response regardless of the size of the problem. Many educators, myself included, have spoken about the need to teach students that sometimes sorry isn’t enough. Sorry can’t always fix things. On Friday though, I wished that these words had more power.

I make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I try hard to learn from these mistakes, and usually, I end up making new mistakes, but not the same ones again. On Friday, I made a mistake that is still bothering me today. It’s probably not the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made, but it’s one that I’m finding hard to move past. I’m a big believer in being up front with people, even if we don’t necessarily agree. I try hard to not talk behind people’s backs, engage in gossip, or get caught up in complaining. But on Friday, I made a comment that I shouldn’t have made to someone else, and the person that I was referring to, overheard. Or at least I think that this person overheard. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I felt terribly!

I probably should have gone to talk to this person, but I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I was so upset because I made the kind of mistake that might have hurt the feelings of somebody that I truly respect. After this incident happened, I sat down and I thought. I wrote an apology. I re-read it. I made changes. In my note, I tried to apologize in the only way that I knew how … I said sorry

I still don’t know if this apology worked. The truth is, even if it did, a “sorry” can’t take away that feeling in my stomach and that knowledge that I might have hurt someone that didn’t deserve to be hurt. Sometimes I wish that I could be a kid again. I wish that all problems could be fixed with a single word, and that this terrible feeling in my head and heart would go away. It won’t though. I know that I won’t be making this same mistake again. While a “sorry” may not fix the problem, I hope that it will eventually bring forgiveness and a fresh start. How do we apologize if “sorry” doesn’t work? If the goal is to learn from our mistakes, then how do we take back words that cannot be forgotten? What do you do? I wish there was a way to begin Friday again. I know what I wouldn’t be doing.


12 thoughts on “I’m Sorry!

  1. Aviva I truly appreciate your candor as like myself and I think so many others, your experience resonates with us. As caring,sensitive professionals it is hard to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes especially ones that are out of character and might hurt those we truly care about. Please know that from your post alone people know that you have outstanding integrity and a deep passion for all people going and ‘old’? I suspect that the person whom you think you might have offended will find it easier to forgive you than you find it for yourself. Once you have worked through self-forgiveness please post again so,that we can all benefit from the process that got you into a better place when it happens if you are not there already!

    • Thanks for the comment, Carla! I don’t know that I’ve truly forgiven myself yet, but I think that the process of blogging helps me feel better. Sharing, and knowing that you’re not alone, also helps. I’m not sure if I’ll ever 100% forgive myself — like you and so many others, I hate hurting people’s feelings — but I will not be making again the same mistake that I did on Friday. This experience will stay with me … and maybe that’s a good thing.


  2. Hi Aviva,
    It takes a lot of courage and strength to so openly admit when you have made a mistake. But you are only human and ALL humans make mistakes. You have apologized to this person with genuine care, sincerity and heartfelt warmth. I’m sure this person has forgiven you. Now it’s time to forgive yourself.

    Josie 😃

    • Thanks Josie! I think it’s so much harder for us to forgive ourselves. I really hate hurting people’s feelings, and I’m afraid that my mistake did just that. I can’t go back and undo what I did, but without a doubt, I learned from this and will do better from now on.


  3. Aviva, you’re such a blessing to us all! Please – forgive yourself. You did more than most adults in all of the workplaces I worked in 21 years combined would do. Honestly, you’ve done more than your part.

    • Thanks for the comment! It’s definitely hard to forgive myself, but maybe knowing how I felt in this situation, will help me remember not to do this again. I think that it will!


  4. Aviva,
    Your post bring up an important point. How do we restore relationships? How can we make amends? What is the value of, “i’m sorry” Please be aware that I am not judging you , your actions or the sincerity of your apology. We all have all created circumstances, by word or deed, where we have harmed others,. I often think that in order for our sorry to be impactful, at some point we must know how the person was harmed, and what impact it might have had. Sometimes, we realize that we had little impact, but on other occasions we may find we have wounded someone in a way we might not have considered. Perhaps we need to teach ourselves, that we owe it to the person harmed to listen to that story and ask the person harmed what they need to move on and make things right.
    I agree with those above that we are often hardest on ourselves, and your candour in writing about this is courageous. An effective means to restore relationships can enhance and strengthen our communities
    All the best

    • Thanks for the comment, Jim! You make great points here. How do we go about hearing this other person’s side of the story? How do we know if this person really wants to share? I would be totally open to having this kind of conversation, but I don’t know if this is what this other individual wants. How do I find out if this is something that the individual wants without making him/her feel worse than before? Suggestions?


      • Aviva, As always your reply has caused me to reflect. I think you are correct in identifying that its difficult to know whether someone would be comfortable entering into this type of discussion. I can’t, nor should I, directly advise or comment, on your own situation, being unaware of particulars. However, I think, that if as a school community we operated from a relationship lens, we might be better able to address the conflicts and harms which are inevitable when we are in relationships. The ideal would be that we always seek to build, maintain and restore relationships. All three must occur. We (teachers, students , staff , admin) must give ourselves permission and the time to build and maintain the relationships that are vital to the health of a school community. This building and maintaining relationships can be accomplished via class meetings, circles or any other favored format. During that time, we hear each others stories, listen, and support each other. If this is good for classes, teachers and staff should see it as important also, regarding their relationships as colleagues. Therefore, when harm occurs, a community (or individuals) can come together to restore the relationships. This might be minor, or major ruptures to relationships. We need to listen to the harm caused, find ways to make things right, and be accountable for helping move a situation towards restoration. I know I may not have answered your question directly, but I think we need to be very intentional in how we do the above. We need to make sure that all stories matter, listening is the key to creating healthy relationships, and provide some time for this to occur. I appreciate the forum you have provided to explain my reflection and appreciate any and all comments, thoughts and ideas. All the best! Jim

        • Thanks Jim! I really do like the sound of this. I think that as staff members at the same school, we often become like a “family,” but just like in real families, problems occur. I know what we do when there are these issues with students, but what about with staff? They don’t have to be big problems, but I’m sure that there must be small issues, misunderstandings, or even arguments with adults in a school environment. Our Board has a Positive School Climate Consultant, and this is a really big focus area for the Board. I wonder what schools have done to build and maintain these staff relationships. I’d love to know. This may not be entirely about my particular issue per se, but it is a great topic of discussion.


          • Aviva
            This year, in my role as Safe and Caring Schools teacher, we are going to pilot some circle training for staff. These circles will be voluntary, held right after or right before school, and take place once a week. The goal of the staff circles is to strengthen the relationships present. Like all circles, it will operate under a few simple agreements. The first: we observe the principles of cooperation, responsibility and respect. Cooperation is that there are many stories to hear, therefore we listen to as many as possible. Thus we do not try to dominate the discussion. Our responsibility is to listen, listen from the heart, free of bias or judgement as much as possible. Finally respect, we all have perspectives and experiences, and we respect that all perspectives are unique and valued. Participation is voluntary and you can choose to listen or to participate. We keep them proactive, focusing on our successes, both in school and outside of school. As trust is built, we can discuss our challenges, what we feel might change and where we might need support. We always try to promote that what we say in circle stays in circle (i.e. the trust factor which must be developed) and the principle of no name, no shame , no blame. If we discuss issues or problems, the focus becomes the problem not the person or group. My experience is that students value this community time. My hope is that staff will see it as worthwhile. A vast majority of these circles for staff or students should be proactive. However, if issues arise, the circle format allows for a forum where participants understand the principles agreed to and can lead to open and frank discussion. In these cases we say : “it is okay to disagree but not to be disagreeable.” I would be interested to hear how your school / board intends to promote staff relations. As I mentioned earlier, this is a focus next year for me, and will be part of what I will be blogging about. As always thanks, and all the best!

          • Thanks for sharing about your experience, Jim! This sounds great. I’m very interested in hearing how these circles go and how staff members feel about them. In our Board, I think that areas of focus seem to vary based on individual schools and goals (be it relationship between students, students and staff, or staff and staff). I’ll try to get some more information for you come September, and hopefully we can share ideas. Please let me know when you blog. I can’t wait to read your post!


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