Friday, February 08, 2013

No One Likes a Rat: Tales from a Lunch Supervisor

Tattle telling is staple of elementary school life. Yesterday was particularly bad, as it seems a higher number of "clients" in the "yard" were trying to ingratiate themselves with authority, or settle scores using the boss.

Most problems I have to deal with as a lunch supervisor have me torn two ways and tattle telling is a great example. You need the kids to come and tell you about their problems with other kids because they lack all the skills to deal with each other. We want to help them with that, or all problems will end up being fights. So you can't just dismiss their concerns. Yet they need to learn some independence and problem solving skills, or they will be a nightmare when they become adults, so you can't treat everything as a serious problem and solve it for them. Somehow they have to understand that that particular problem is not that serious and they should deal with it but that one is serious and they should talk to an adult.

Also, I hate tattle telling. My default would be to tell them to sort it out themselves, as most of their problems tend to be of the "Tommy won't stop looking at me" variety.So I have to watch this tendency, otherwise they will learn not to tell about anything.

Yesterday I had to deal with two of these not important incidents. Two girls come up to me with a complaint:

Think a 6 year old, slightly whinny, singsong voice: "Supervisor....Those two boys (waves hand in general direction of about 50 kids) won't stop bugging my friend."

The first thing I always do is ask them what their name is and what grade they are in. That way I know who I am dealing with and where to find them if I find out they are lying or just trying to get someone in trouble. Some of the smarter ones are not above using "the man" to do their dirty work.It also allows me to get to know them. There are already a few kids who all the other adults at the school know by name.

Then I ask the 3 key questions:

"Are you hurt?"

"Was it on purpose?"

"Were you playing together?"

If no one is hurt, then I know it is not serious. The purpose question usually determines if I talk to the non tattler. The answer to the third question will decide who I talk to. If the kids were playing together, then I tell the tattler not to play with the other kid if they don't like the way they are playing. If they were not playing together, I usually tell the other kid to leave the first one alone.

If the answers are No/No/Yes, then it's probably a revenge tattle tale, and I usually tell them to be on their way.

The two girls were a No/No/No. The other kid (a boy) committed the heinous crime of calling the girl "momma" and hugging her. I told the boy that if someone asks you to stop doing something, then stop and I mentioned the golden rule. 

The second incident was this small grade one boy and was a No/No/Yes, so I wasted his time by making him take me to the other kid and walking very slowly. When I finally got there, I make some general remark about "playing nice"and went on my way.

The playground is once again safe. Until next time.

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