Frequently each day, I have students come up to me and tell me that someone cussed at them, some hit them, someone stole their mechanical pencil, or something to those effects. Some appear to be serious while others seem to be simply trying to get attention. Either way, in most situations, I did not see what happened.
This type of “tattling” is becoming more and more prevalent. It usually happens like this: “Lisa” gets in trouble by me for throwing a pencil eraser across the room. As I am reprimanding her, she tells me that “Mike” threw something at her too. Sometimes, it isn’t even spurred by a specific event. For example, “Tony” may come up to me as we are in the process of lining up for Specials and say, “Mark” hit me. These situations seem minor and more like he said, she said, but they have been causing a little frustration for me because I do not know what I should be taking seriously. How do I decide what is worth reacting to and what is better left ignored? What I fear is that I may choose to ignore something that is actually a valid concern and a student suffers because of it. Furthermore, if I choose not to ignore something, how should I respond/what should I say to that student? Do I even have the right to call them out if I didn’t even see them do anything? Overall, I have been casting most complaints to the side as “tattles” and honestly, I believe they are. I just wish I could refine my discretion as to what is serious and what is not.
I am certain that I will encounter more pressing issues in my career as a teacher. However, this is a situation that if left unresolved can really disrupt the classroom dynamic. I want my students to know that if there is a problem they can come to me and I will demand that they are treated with respect. On the other hand, my students need to understand that we do not have time to tattle. I also want to help them see that the more they come to me about insignificant things, I naturally grow less likely to believe them when there is truly something serious going on. I believe that part of my responsibility as a teacher is to help students learn to self-assess the situations in which they find themselves and determine if it is really worth bringing to my attention. Most times, students are capable of handling the situation without the intervention of a teacher. For example, if someone is bothering “Tony”, he can kindly ask that person to stop tapping their shoulder/stop humming, etc. I am aware that if I am having trouble knowing how and when to respond to these situations, my students almost certainly are too. I am committing myself to making sure that both I and my class have the tools needed to make the best decisions in these situations.