Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teaching Students to Forgive

In How to Let Go and Forgive from zen habits by Leo, he states

“We need to learn to let go. We need to be able to forgive, so we can move on and be happy. Forgiveness does not mean you erase the past, or forget what has happened. It doesn’t even mean the other person will change his behavior — you cannot control that. All it means is that you are letting go of the anger and pain, and moving on to a better place.”

He also shares some things about how he does this. If you get a chance, read his suggestions because they are helpful. Now I wonder about how well do we teach this to our students. We focus so much on content but is this a social skill that we should teach and if so, how do we teach it?

It always seems to me that teenagers are so angry all of the time. I don’t know if it is hormonal or because of the steroids that are put in our foods (that is another whole conversation that I won’t get into now). Yet, they are always feeling like their world is so unjust and that we owe it to them to make their lives fair and easy. If you aren’t part of the world that is for them, then you must be against them and they do not forget or forgive easily.

I think it is important to recognize their anger and accept it. I remember growing up and my parents telling me that I would grow out of this phase or to get over it. I am sure that I lost many good friends because I got angry at them and wouldn’t forgive them for their action. These actions seem minor now that 35 years have gone by but at the time, they were important. By acknowledging these feelings, we can help a studentwork with them instead of hiding them in a closet.

By looking at the consequences of not forgiving someone, it might help the student see a bigger picture. Developmentally, they are at a stage where the world revolves just around them. I think it is important to expand their world and see how their actions can affect others. By not forgiving, they could lose friendships, but it can also affect their health. This in turn would affect their parents and other friends.

Another important way to help my students is to model forgiving behavior. I get angry at a lot of things around me and in the news. I need to verbalize my feelings and show my students how I work through these feelings. Students learn a lot by watching teachers as much as hearing the teachers talking. Sometimes students need to learn that even teachers need to be forgiven for their shortcomings because we can’t solve all of their problems for them.

I think teaching forgiveness could be a valuable lesson to teach to our students. By teaching students this skill, I feel it would help them become more successful in their education as well as in their lives.

Original image: 'sorry' http://www.flickr.com/photos/24609729@N00/1836019197 by: Alex Cockroach

1 comment:

teachin' said...

You know, I've always thought that teaching empathy to my students mattered tremendously - that they need to find a way to put themselves in others' shoes. I'd never thought about teaching them forgiveness explicitly before.

What a great idea. Thank you. I will totally be trying to find a way to incorporate more of that, even if just by example.