I was substitute teaching again today, this time in Spanish class. I know no Spanish; my duty was simply to give out the absent teacherâ€™s assignments to her classes and maintain order. In two of the classes, students misbehaved slightly and I had to admonish them.
It was a chance to teach them something not in the Spanish language curriculum â€“ I could teach them an important life lesson, and I did.
In each case, I asked the class to pay careful attention to me, because, as I told them, I am at least four times as old as anybody in the class (perhaps a bit more), and therefore they should realize that Iâ€™ve been where they are now. And, I told them that I wanted to share with them some wisdom â€“ not a Spanish lesson â€“ that would surely prove important to them though their lives.
Each time student that had misbehaved said â€œSorryâ€. I told them that thereâ€™s a problem in modern times: People, especially politicians and corporate criminals, never take responsibility for their wrongdoing and never truly express real contrition. When they do wrong they say â€œI made a mistakeâ€ or the even more vague â€œmistakes may have been madeâ€, and they say â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€.
But what they should be saying is: â€œI did wrong. I admit it. I will never do it again. Please forgive meâ€.
I told the kids that they will go further in life and be more successful if they learn that if one does what one knows one should not do (or does not do what one knows he should), it is not a â€œmistakeâ€, but wrongdoing. And, that being so, â€œsorryâ€ does not and should not let the wrongdoer off the hook, because one should never choose to do wrong. But if one does, it is not a â€œmistakeâ€, and one is obligated to try and right the wrong and promise and then do his utmost never to do that wrong thing again. And, if a person or persons are harmed by the wrongdoing (such as the class time and teacherâ€™s time wasted), a sincere apology and request to be forgiven is in order.
I miss the age of responsibility. Am I a sentimental old fool?
Iâ€™ve found, by the way, that Dominica is much better than the USA in this respect, and I hope it always stays that way.