Teaching Meaningful Apologies

  • What makes a “good” apology?

  • How can a child “say it like they mean it” if they haven’t yet learned how to “mean it”?

  • How much class time should a dance teacher take up with working through apologies when we have so much choreography and technique to get through in an hour?


The schedule on the wall at the studio may say I’m teaching Tap or Jazz, Ballet or Creative Movement, but in the studio I am equally (and more importantly) teaching and modeling life skills. I do this through my 3 mantras:

Unreasonable Joy.

Childlike Wonder.

Reverential Acceptance.

(You can read my full write-up on my teaching philosophy on my About page.)

Apologies–the bravery to show remorse & vulnerability and the compassion to grant forgiveness–are a very important life skill that I make time for in my dance classroom. Apologies fall under my 3rd teaching goal:

  • Reverential Acceptance. —Permission to be perfectly imperfect and to accept that limitations exist, and can be worked with. Gratitude & respect for those who’ve come before, for our peers, for our teachers, and for all in our community.

If you, and your fellow classmates and teacher, are perfectly imperfect…there will be a need for giving apologies sometimes. If you have gratitude and respect for your peers, students and teachers…there will be an impulse to accept apologies sometimes.


Ok, apologies are important, but what can I say in my classroom to elicit a good apology?

A Better Way to Say Sorry

The best guide to apologies that I’ve ever read is the post  A Better Way to Say Sorry from cuppacocoa.com. It is well worth the read.

The blog author explains that a good apology has 4 elements that both the offending and offended party must hear. What are we apologizing for? Why does that need an apology? How do I know you won’t just do it again? Are we still good with each other? The more specific an apologizer can be with their completion of the following phrases, the more sincere the apology will be.

A Complete Apology

I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?

(See A Better Way to Say Sorry for both bad and good examples of apologies using these prompts.)


I work with young people. The youngest people are still testing how they want to use their power and they are still learning the boundaries of how much space other people require. When I am the offended party, I might not use the 4-step apology, but the elements may still be present. I leave you with a conversation that has been repeated with different students of various ages, surprisingly about 2-3 times a year:

Student purposely hits/touches/bangs into my backside.

Me (pointing to where inappropriate contact was made): “Is this your butt?”

Student: Giggling usually, then quiet when they see I am serious and want an answer…”No.”

Me: “Correct. It is mine. Do you get to touch my butt?”

Student: Sometimes a little nervous now as the usually smiling Ms. Linda is not smiling now. “No.”

Me: “Ok! Now we both know you know.” I flash a big smile to show the student they are forgiven, the student lets out a sigh of relief and we intermediately return to the dancing at hand.

Happy Boundary Setting to All You Teachers and Parents Out There!!   ~Linda

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