The Craft of the Written ApologyCarla, writer of the EnglishTeacher blog here at eNotes had an interesting post this morning about the need for formal apologies, a neglected art in our text-and-go...

The Craft of the Written Apology

Carla, writer of the EnglishTeacher blog here at eNotes had an interesting post this morning about the need for formal apologies, a neglected art in our text-and-go times. 

http://blogs.enotes.com/english-teacher-blog/2008-02/a-letter-of-apology/#comment-2409

I very much liked her idea about teaching students to write apologies by first distancing themselves; this removes the element of shame/embarassment in order to focus on the craft. 

Her is Carla's suggestion:

How might we teach students to write a formal letter of apology without requiring them to reveal personal information? Perhaps we could draw from their reading. Write the letter from Wilson to Gatsby, apologizing for shooting him. Write the letter from Circe to Odysseus, apologizing from keeping him on her island so long. Write the letter from Soaphead Church to Pecola, apologizing for abusing her trust in him. Write the letter from Lord Capulet or Lord Montague, apologizing to Prince Escalus, to the city of Verona, to their families, to Romeo and Juliet. 

 

12 Answers | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Great idea of how to include formal apologies, though I do wonder about the example of a Nazi soldier apologising as in the novel Night. There are huge moral and ethical questions to be brought into considering whether one soldier can apologise for the crimes of a whole people. I guess you could really combine this activity with a serious consideration of forgiveness - its limits and boundaries.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Did anyone hear the fabulous "This American Life" story a while back called "The Apology Line"?  Jeff's post reminded me of this.  The premise was a professor (I think) began an anonymous "Apology Line," sort of a confessional tell-all, in which the penitent would voice their sins into an answering machine.  The responses blew him away, everything from infidelities to murder and everything in-between.  Eventually, it became so burdensome, both time-wise and emotionally, that he stopped the project. 

http://www.mercuryhouse.org/amerlife.html

jeff-hauge's profile pic

jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I do similar thing in the first week of class as well. The first bit of writing is an apology for any random action. i tell the to really apologize, but don't be specific about the offense. Then before they turn it in, they have to count how many times the refer to themselves against how many times they refer to the offended.

Then they have to write an internal monologue that rationalizes a morally wrong activity. Then they compare the two.

Every single time, without exception, the rationalizations are more creative, eloquent and well written.

... it is work to apologize and natural to rationalize.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Oh, My Goodness!  How awful!  I can't imagine why no one went to his party.  I can think of several high school and college teachers whose parties I would attend if I were nearby.  I no longer live in those towns, and travel is expensive these days, but if I could, I would go!

Poor man.  I'm so grateful his wife never told him. 

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

"A few years ago my husband celebrated his 25th year of teaching. After touching the lives of hundreds of students not one RSVP'd to his surprise party. We had to cancel. He never knew it. He loves his job. I hate it."

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I'm dying of curiosity. Someone please tell what the woman wrote. I'm using my school computer right now, and our firewall won't let me open the link.

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

:( That is terrible. I can't imagine how he would feel if he knew.

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Amy-  I like the idea of a thank you note.  Do you guys read www.postsecrets.com?  There was an entry this week that broke my heart.  Go to the page and scroll down abotu 3/4 and look for the white postcard that begins, "A few years ago my husband...". 

  Good grief...that is so very sad.  I'm thankful he never knew about it.

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Amy-  I like the idea of a thank you note.  Do you guys read www.postsecrets.com?  There was an entry this week that broke my heart.  Go to the page and scroll down abotu 3/4 and look for the white postcard that begins, "A few years ago my husband...". 

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a great idea.  I have had kids write letters of "thank you" as seniors to one or more teachers who have helped to make them the people they are today.  What a neat idea...I will be trying the soldier to the Jews letter with NIGHT.

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I've done this before in my classes and it's a very effective method of getting students to write good letters of apology. We used it when we read Night (a Nazi soldier apologizing for any number of atrocities committed). We also used it when we read 1984 Winston apologizing to Julia or Julia to Winston (that was always interesting because students got to brainstorm Julia's Room 101 in her explanation).

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