Last night, I met a friend for dinner. As I was leaving the restaurant, I heard someone call, “Aviva.” I turned, and I saw a man who looked slightly familiar. He then introduced himself. We went to high school together.
We spent a few minutes catching up over by his table. He explained that he actually lives out of town, but he was in town for a fundraiser run. Unfortunately, another person that we went to high school with, passed away from cancer. The two of them remained quite close, and he was heavily involved in the run. This was such incredibly sad news, but I appreciate that he shared it with me.
Just as I was about to go, he said to me, “Aviva, I just want to take a minute to say, ‘I’m sorry!’ I wasn’t always kind to you in high school. I know that it was a long time ago. At the time, I thought that I was just joking, but as I think back on those times, I know that some things that I said were not okay. You were always so nice and friendly to everyone, and I wasn’t. Thinking about what happened to my friend, James, I told myself that if I ever saw you and some other people from high school, I was going to apologize before it was too late. I’m glad that I saw you today, and I hope that you accept this sincere apology.” The words were so heartfelt, so unexpected, and so wonderful, that I’ve been replaying them in my mind since yesterday. I also absolutely accepted his apology. Honestly, I don’t remember what this individual said to me all of those years ago.
This did make me think though about a recent conversation with a friend. Students, of varying ages, do not always make the best of choices. When we were kids, we probably didn’t either. Think about the words of this person that I ran into last night. We can always teach children how to do the right thing, how to avoid problems, and how to solve them, but sometimes life is hard. Sometimes peers influence our choices. Sometimes stress impacts on the decisions that we make. And sometimes, what we think might be a “joke,” is not all that funny. As educators, we can ask kids to apologize, and maybe they will, but so many times, these “I’m sorry’s,” just seem like empty words. It’s kind of like, “Okay, I did what you said. Can I now go back to playing?” What this individual did yesterday though was different. He dug down deep to apologize, and at a time, that I didn’t expect it. I will probably never see him again, but I will remember his words.
As we enter into the final weeks of school before the summer, maybe there’s something to be said for remembering that …
- Kids and adults might make mistakes.
- Student behaviour might not always be the best.
- Educators might feel tired, frustrated, angry, or upset … or maybe all of the above.
- Students, parents, and administrators might feel the same.
Susan Hopkins from The MEHRIT Centre regularly speaks about the value of “soft eyes.” Thinking about my experience from yesterday, I wonder if “soft eyes” of years ago, time to reflect, maturity, and a lack of pressure (or stress) that can come from a forced apology, resulted in one of the most sincere sorry’s that I’ve ever heard. How will you fill kids up with love and kindness in the next few weeks — even for those where this might be an incredibly challenging feat? The students who push us away the most, might be the ones who need us most of all. Maybe years later, more will do as this adult did yesterday. It’s never too late to change a trajectory — right?!