We all know how important it is to listen to children, but tattling can be like a fire out of control. The world is changing rapidly, but one thing that is as alive today in the classroom as it was years ago is tattling! To prevent negativity/aka “the squeaky wheel” from getting too much attention, it’s important to have a discussion with your class about what is an emergency. If someone is in danger of getting hurt, then it’s an emergency. (One teacher said she used the “3 B Principle” – bathroom, blood, or barf!!!) There are also several good books out now that help children understand when it is appropriate to tell the teacher and what happens when you cry wolf. (A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Fran Sandon is adorable!)
Put an old phone on your desk for children to tell their concerns. Explain that you’ll listen to your messages at the end of the day. You might even want to have a directory.
Press #1 for the principal.
Press #2 for the school secretary.
Press #3 for your teacher.
Press #4 for your parents…etc.
Put a box, notepad, and pencil on a shelf. Explain that when they want to complain or make a comment they need to write it on a piece of paper. They must start their sentence with a capital letter and end it with a period if they want the teacher to read it at the end of the day.
Open a lunch bag and set it on your desk. When children come up to tattle say, “Go put it in the bag. I’ll listen at the end of the day.” (Yes, trust me! They will go over and talk in the bag.) At the end of the day put the bag next to your ear and pretend to listen for 15-20 seconds. Then wad up the bag and throw it in the trash as you say, “That’s the end of that!”
Get a spiral notebook and write “Things the Teacher Needs to Know” on the cover. When children come to tattle hand them the book and say, “Write it all down and don’t leave out a thing.” If they say, “I can’t write,” respond with, “Well, just draw a picture and don’t leave out a thing!”
One of my favorite stories about tattle tales came from a teacher many years ago. When her students tried to tattle she’d smile and say, “I’m sorry. Today’s not tattle tale day. Wait until May 14th and then you can tell me.”
Another teacher said she used the concept of an Oreo cookie for tattle tales. The child reporting had to say one nice thing, then the tale, then another nice thing.
Choose a stuffed animal or puppet to listen to children’s complaints and tattles. Be sure and name the character. Explain that when you are busy they can always tell Teddy (or whatever) their problems. He’s always there waiting to be their friend.
Here’s another great idea for tattle tales. Put a photograph of the President on your wall and say, “I’m just your teacher. Why don’t you tell the President?” You won’t believe it, but the children will walk over and talk to the picture!
Tell the plant. Enlarge a picture of yourself and put it on a stick. Insert the stick in a plant and direct the children to the plant when they want to tattle.
Sometimes a sense of humor is the best solution to a problem. Keep calm and laugh inside!