Tattle Tales and Classroom Helpers
From dealing with tattlers to choosing the right student helper – wise advice from Dear Barbara
Dear Barbara - Advice for Substitute Teachers by Barbara Pressman
The author of Substitute Teaching from A to Z (McGraw-Hill, 2008)
Regular contributor to the Gazette
April 1, 2009
How can I deal with tattle tales all day long?
I am exhausted! I just spent a day with first graders. Although they are cute and give you lots of notes with hearts and rainbows, they are so needy!
My question is: Should I ignore the tattle tales? It works sometimes. If I buy into those tattle tales, I feel as if I’m encouraging even more. Please help with this impossible situation.
Joan from Atlanta, GA
I’ve been there! I find tattle tales in the primary grades to be one of the most challenging aspects of subbing.
Here’s what works for me. When the first tattle tale starts, I say, “I don’t believe in tattle tales. You are grown up students. You should be able to solve problems on your own. If a classmate is doing something you don’t like, but it’s not affecting you, just ignore the behavior. It’s my job to handle that behavior. Please tell me about your problems only in a crisis (describe crisis). Does anyone have any questions?” Then give some examples of how to handle unkind words, without teacher involvement. When you notice a child handling his/her own problems, praise the behavior publicly.
This brief discussion is worth the time spent. It will save hours of dealing with unimportant issues.
Here are some cleaver ideas that I have seen in other classrooms.
Tattle Tale Dale – a stuffed animal sits in a chair. Students are encouraged to tell Dale what’s bothering them. It seems to work!
Ask students to write you a note instead of tattling. Tell them you will read the note when you have free time, and deal with the issue then.
Give rewards to students that handle problems independently.
Barbara Pressman is an adjunct professor at the College of Education, Florida Atlantic University. She has been a classroom teacher for more than 20 years, and a supervisor for student teachers for 10 years. She currently mentors Substitute Teachers as well.
Teachers.Net asked Barbara how she came to be interested in writing for substitute teachers. Her response:
I have subbed for many years during my teaching career. When my children were small, I found subbing to be a wonderful "free lance" job. At that time, I took on a 6th grade long term subbing assignment, which led me back to full time teaching. Upon retirement, I went back to subbing once again.