I was speaking yesterday with some fellow teachers about the excess of tattling we experience every day, and one of them said that she uses a sort of "tattle box" with great success. The kids write out their complaints on a piece of paper and put it into a box which is then
My own personal philosophy is to quote WC Fields and say, "Go away kid, you're bothering me!"
Last year, I wrote a Mr. Teacher column about this topic, where I asked several teachers what strategies they used to combat this epidemic that is tattling. This column, entitled, "I'm Telling!" originally ran on education.com on July 28, 2009.
I used to have only two pet peeves in life -- people who drive in the dark with only their parking lights on, and people who quote entire scenes of Monty Python at a time. Since becoming a teacher, however, a new contender has risen to make those a distant second and third. Oh heinous pet peeve, thy name is tattling.
Anyone who has dealt with children (or professional basketball players) has had to deal with tattling. Some kids tattle to get other kids in trouble, some kids tattle just to get some attention, and some kids tattle because they truly feel a misappropriation of justice is happening.
Regardless of the reason though, most teachers find tattling incredibly annoying.
There is a significant difference between telling the teacher something and telling on someone. For instance, if Susie is hanging upside down from the monkey bars by her shoestrings and can't get down, then yes, that's something I need to know. However, I think I can do without hearing that Billy allegedly called Peter the "S -word" ["stupid"] at the apartments last night.
Many children seem unable or unwilling to make this differentiation. I had unofficially given one boy in my class last year the cabinet post of Tattle Tale General, as he would assault my ears as soon as he saw me each morning, laying out the general school population’s misdeeds with almost military precision.
"Sir, status report, Sir! Tommy kicked Lisa's book bag, Kelly was making faces at a second grader, and Donnell is jangling pennies in his pocket. In world news, Lindsay Lohan was busted on DUI charges again."
I once joked that if teachers didn't receive any base salary at all, but they were given $25 every time one of their students tattled on someone, we could all retire to the Bahamas by the end of the second year.
Since tattling is so prevalent, I asked several teaching colleagues how they handle it in their classrooms, and what, if any, strategies they employ to curb it.
Some of the no-nonsense teachers immediately replied that they tell their kids up front that they don't want to hear any complaining unless it involves one of the 3 B's - Barfing, Bleeding, or Broken - or the "Double D" - Dangerous or Destructive.
One teacher said that when a child approaches her, she tells him, "Save it for tattle-time." Of course, there is no tattle-time, but the younger kids never catch on to this.
Another interesting technique was the suggestion of a "tattle sandwich." Sounds like it would be quite tasty with a bit of mutton and some ripe tomato, but this teacher allows students to tell on classmates as long as they say something nice about the person before and after that tattle.
Many of the responses I received suggested having the kids write down the tattles instead of speaking them. When pressed to use perfect grammar, punctuation, and spelling to report an injustice, it seems many kids just aren't willing to put forth the effort. Some teachers require their students to write down their grievances during recess, which is a deterrent, and some require that the kids fill out complicated incident reports involving exact times, minute details, and a list of witnesses.
My favorite strategy of all the responses involves the use of a tattle patsy. A few teachers told me that they have a stuffed animal or a picture on the wall that they send the kids to when they absolutely have to tattle. This makes perfect sense because some kids just want to speak the words into the air, regardless of who is listening.
A couple of years ago, I witnessed one of my little girls, desperately in need to tattle, turn to some random woman who happen to be walking down the hall, and claim, "Miss, he hit me!"
To this woman's credit, she continued walking without making eye contact.
My thanks go out to all of the teachers who replied to my request for information. I know I learned some new tips that I will be employing this year, and if you are a parent or teacher reading this, hopefully you have as well.
I can already picture "Tattle Toby," the stuffed elephant in the corner. Yes, he's already rolling his eyes.