Making amends

Day five of the ATS Experience is focused on making amends and reintegration. On a recent visit, we joined an elementary school circle at the close of the school day. A student named Caleb was practicing his apology to the person he harmed.

The scenario was this: Caleb had asked a couple of boys if they would stop kicking up dust in front of the school. This request angered the boys; in response, one of the boys knocked Caleb’s hat off and it fell to the ground. The boys had a physical fight, which resulted in a visit to ATS. Caleb was truly struggling with his apology, and when we asked him why, he emphatically stated, “I don’t know why I have to apologize. He started it!” We pulled Caleb out of the circle, and worked with him.

What we realized in the exchange, is that even though Caleb was wrong in fighting with the other student, he was also wronged – and we hadn’t attended to the fact that in many cases, students need to go through and process the questions for the harmed as well as the restorative questions for the accused. By going through the questions for the harmed, Caleb was able to move past being wronged and then own and make amends for what he had done. And that brings us to another valuable point: Often, students who are reluctant to apologize have difficulty because they don’t want to take responsibility for the whole event -- just like in Caleb’s case above.

We were able to share with Caleb that it was absolutely not ok for the other student to knock his hat off; and, he had to own and recognize his part in the event.

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