Friday, December 16, 2011


It is every 1st grader and kindergartner’s delight to inform a teacher that a fellow classmate said a naughty word. Over the past few months, I have learned to decode what it means if someone said the “s-word” (stupid) or the “f-word” (fat). Sometimes the letter preceding “-word” sets my mind spinning, and I cannot decipher it. In those situations, my solution is to look at the student sternly and say, “I better not ever hear you say that word. Do you understand?” Of course there’s a chance I wouldn’t know if I hear it, since some words forbidden in elementary classrooms are part of my every-day vocabulary, but so far it has worked fine.

When I was showing the kindergartners Rose Period artwork by Picasso last week, I displayed Fat Clown Seated. I didn’t mention the painting’s title, and halfway through our discussion on Rose Period art, one student raised his hand, and informed me, “Jack just said that clown is fat!” He said it loudly and confidently, not even using the euphemism “f-word” to describe the taboo term.

“Well, the clown is fat,” I replied, and gasps erupted from the girls, and giggles from the boys. I hurriedly went on with the discussion, not sure if I had handled the situation correctly.

Tattling is not something I condone, but I have found that if I do not immediately reprimand the child being tattled on, the tattle-worthy behavior will continue and cause further disruptions and more tattles. Some students tattle just for the thrill of it, but most students have a legitimate concern. Today, I had one student tell me, “Sophie is tattling for no reason, and I didn’t do anything!” She was clearly trying to cover her back, but it was unnecessary as the purported tattling never reached my ears.

Thankfully, tattling goes out of style around 2nd grade, and my ears can rest from the never-ending  chore of listening to “he said” and “she said”. Unfortunately, by 6th grade, I have new challenges as the terms “s-word” and “f-word” acquire new meanings. When those words are used in Miss Young’s art room, the students are sent straight to the office, and they can be sure their parents will be hearing about their behavior.


  1. We had a really good speaker come in on one of our PGC Days about bullying. The issue of tattling came up and she shared something interesting. She explained that she uses a 1-3 scale and asks the tattler, is it a "1, 2, or 3?" She has basically "trained" the students to understand that a '1' is an incident when a child is harming another student, a '2' is when a child may be harming themselves (ex. playing on the playground incorrectly) and a '3' an incident that can be solved with words. Sometimes it's a combination, but when a tattler approaches her, she says, "Is it a 1, a 2 or a 3? And if you're not sure, we can talk about it together." I've started this as well, and it seems to nip tattling in the butt because more than likely, it's a 3, and the students understand that I will devote little time to a petty problem and have the students work out their issue using their words.

  2. That's a great system! Thanks for sharing. I often help my students solve their problems with words, i.e. if Grace says that Joe took her crayon, I'll tell Grace, "well, ask Joe to please give it back to you." Then, as the tattling results in her peaceably solving the problem herself (instead of me reprimanding Joe, as she probably hoped would happen), she learns a more mature way of handling similar situations. I haven't taken the time to establish a rating system like you have, but it sounds like what you are doing is working great!