We have all heard the phrase “don’t be a tattletale”. It was likely muttered by an adult trying to gain some sort of control over continual interruptions in a classroom setting. Although well intended, the phrase sends a mixed message to children on how to deal with peer conflict.
I have significantly cut back on unnecessary “reporting” in my classroom using the “Need to Know” technique. While I secretly appreciate when inappropriate behavior is reported, many times the information is just not something I need to know.
The student reporting can be divided into two simple categories: “need to know” and “don’t need to know”.
Need to know:
- If someone is hurt (sick, bleeding, crying, etc.)
- If behavior of someone is dangerous (someone is standing on a chair, someone poked with a pencil, tripped, pinched, hit, etc.)
- Have a problem that you have tried to solve, but cannot on own.
Don’t need to know:
- If a another student is not following the exact directions. (These are actions I might be aware of, or will catch on to shortly.)
- Feelings were hurt or student is accidentally touched/bumped. (Try to allow child to solve problem on their own for 1st offense.)
Once you have discussed your expectations and role play “need to know” scenarios, consistency in action will determine success.
- Donna reports that Brad is holding a couple markers in his hand. While Brad isn’t supposed to have anything in his hand, it is not worth stopping instruction to address it. In this case I would ask Donna “Is this a need to know?” Upon reflection her answer would likely be “No” and we could continue instruction while reinforcing understanding of the technique.
- Danell reports that Bill said something mean to him. Ask, “Is this a need to know?” Danell says yes, because he told Bill to stop and he did it again. At this point, since the child tried to handle it himself and it didn’t work, this has become a bully situation and it needs to be addressed by an adult.
While we want to help students solve their problems, often empowering them to solve it on their own is the best for the child, teacher, and classroom environment. Situations where I encourage students to solve their own problems and use their own words are: someone . . . colored on my paper, copied my idea, won’t share, is humming, made a face, didn’t clean up (see Clean-up map to address this problem).
Thank you to Gail Edgerton for inspiring “Need to Know”.