Since the beginning of civilization, human beings have felt the need to get each other in trouble. It seems to be the life-long ambition of some individuals to make others miserable in-order-to feel a little better about there own small lives. I am of course speaking of homosapien-tattalous (the tattletale). This species of human is unfortunately not rare and is commonly found on school play yards and in elementary school classrooms (though they are known to frequent lunchrooms, water-cooler areas, and the office mail room, among many other locals). Tattle tales are often easy to spot at long distance and should be avoided at all costs. The tattletale often lacks self esteem and rarely has close friends. Tattletales are parasitic creatures that feed by sucking the happiness from others (not unlike a dementor if you fancy Harry Potter). Alas, being a teacher I cannot avoid interacting with the larva tattletales. Thus as educators we must develop strategies to handle the creature without harming it. If you cause harm to a tattletale, it will of course tattle on you. Thus the conundrum.
Dealing with Homosapien-Tattalous
I have dealt with tattletales in my career in various ways. There is the tried and true: punish the tattler not the victim of the tattling. I have seen tattle journals for classrooms. I’ve heard of detention for tattling. And yet no matter the punishment, homosapien-tattalous will continue to evolve to survive. An interesting adaptation occurred in my classroom this year. Several weeks ago, one of my resident tattletales (of the classroom variety) raised his hand to ask a question. I, being an amazing teacher, arrived promptly at the student’s desk. The student, Arthur Dent, looked at the girl across from him and then at me before speaking, “Mr. B, can we pass notes in class?”
I answered, “Of course we can’t. We’ve established that rule since day one.”
The student smiled and looked sneeringly at the girl across from him. He continued to speak, “Oh I was just wondering cause Trillian here was passing a note to her friend. So I guess since you said we can’t do it, she should get in trouble.” I was of course livid! I explained to the creature that even though he was asking a question, it was still tattling and possibly worse than the regular version.
Over the next few days Arthur and Trillian presented me with several different questions, each of them beginning the same way. “Mr. B, are we allowed to…” And alas I lamented. I thought I had eradicated homosapien-tattalous from my classroom. I was wrong. I have underestimated the resilience of the species. But fear not. Wherever there is a tattletale sucking the happiness from others, a teacher will be there to tell them it is wrong. “Constant Vigilance!” (again if you fancy Harry Potter)
The Perfect Solution
Many years ago a teacher “sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place.” A world free of tattling. “This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost for ever.
And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.”*
So long, and go out and teach the kids.
*All quotes courtesy Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy