Why I hate the “Tattle Bear”

There’s not a lot that I disagree with in my son’s Kindergarten classroom. His teacher is a wonderful woman who challenges her students on their individual levels. The other teachers and directors are friendly. His classmates have all become great friends. It turned out to be a good choice to keep him in private school for Kindergarten.

My one complaint is the introduction of the “Tattle Bear”.

This stuffed bear was introduced several months ago. Children are known for tattling on their friends. It happens on such a regular basis, that I understand the concept behind the Tattle Bear. The teacher wants to discourage the need to tattle on every little thing another student might be doing. So, instead of going to the teacher, the child goes to the bear and whispers the tattle to the bear. The idea is that the bear then tells the teacher.

Sigh.

First of all, my son has actually told me that this stuffed bear tells his teacher the things she doesn’t want to hear from the students. Just as we’re getting past the idea that Toy Story could be based on true events, now there is a stuffed bear in the classroom having regular conversations with the teacher. I believe in exercising the imagination of children, but something about this rubs me the wrong way.

And then there’s the fact that these children are not matured enough to know what constitutes a true need to tell on another student. If Sarah won’t let Johnny use any red crayons, the teacher shouldn’t need to get involved. Sarah and Johnny need to speak to each other about the problem and figure out a solution. I can see how this can be an educational situation for both of the children. They are old enough to figure this one out for themselves.

Then again, what about when Marcus slaps Christina? If Christina just tattles to the Tattle Bear, what is actually being done about the violence in the classroom?

This is based on a true story. My son told me once that his friend slapped him instead of “using his words” when they were having a disagreement. I asked what he did, and he told me that he told the Tattle Bear.

Because the Tattle Bear will tell the teacher.

Except we all know the Tattle Bear won’t do this. The friend, whether he believes the bear to actually speak to the teacher or not, will see no repercussions for his actions.

While tattling can get annoying, sometimes it is necessary. If one student physically hurts another, then the victim needs to know he is in a safe environment where he can discuss it with a trusted adult. Not a stuffed teddy bear.

When the children get into higher grades, where bullying is so rampant these days, they need to have that background of being able to identify who it is safe to tell about any bullying or abuse that is happening.

And it can’t just be the parent. I’m glad that my son can talk to me about what’s happening in school, but once he tells me his friend slapped him, what can I do? The event has already taken place. I can go talk to the teacher, who can talk to the friend, but too much time has passed already. In the life of a child, it is done and over with. If the repercussions are not immediate, then they don’t make a difference in the child’s future actions.

The friend that slapped my son is not a bully. He’s a nice kid and I’ve chatted with his grandfather a few times at events or when we cross paths at pick-up or drop-off. He has a better attitude than a friend my son used to have that did have the makings of a bully. My son and this friend have a history of playing well together, and often. I harbor no negative thoughts about him specifically.

It’s the situation I don’t like. If my son is hit at school, by anyone, he needs to know that is an acceptable time to talk to the teacher. How can he learn the difference between what is okay to “tattle” about and what isn’t, if he doesn’t learn firsthand?

I explained this to my son, and he understands that hitting is something it’s okay (and encouraged) to tell the teacher about. I am number one in teaching my child the way of the world, and I accept that responsibility. But I can’t be alone in this. I need to know that he is being taught by teachers who will make themselves available to talk to – no matter what – so I know he has a safe place to go to if he ever feels he can’t talk to me.

I hope that doesn’t ever happen, but it’s always good to be prepared. Because there’s no telling what might happen in our futures.

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P.S. I happened upon a tip written by a teacher in Maryland who uses a Tattle Bear for children in kindergarten and first grade. There’s a slight difference. Instead of whispering the tattle to the bear, the children are to write down what they want to say on an index card. The index card gets put into a coffee can that the bear holds on to. This seems like it might be a better idea. We’re still not dealing with immediate consequences, but at least this way the teacher can monitor the tattles. Plus, the kids get to practice their writing while learning the difference between telling and tattling.

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8 comments on “Why I hate the “Tattle Bear””

  1. Alex@LateEnough

    Tattle Bear is also not teaching the children anything — they aren’t leaning the difference between what is appropriate to tell the teach and what should be worked out between friends. Why can’t the teacher just say: You and so-and-so can work that out for yourself? so the kids learn the difference instead of imagining the teacher ‘knows’ someone ‘broke a rule.’
    It seems lazy and dangerous to me.

  2. Amanda Austin

    Pure laziness to me, or rather not wanting to deal with frustrations of a kindy classroom. How will they learn that grow ups are to be trusted if they aren’t encouraged to go to one with concerns? This is a slippery slope. I’m thinking the worst here: a child who is touched inappropriately and tells the tattle bear. My opinion is she should just deal with the tattling or use it as a teaching moment (ie when is it appropriate to tell or not)

    • Roxanne

      It’s like, I know it can be annoying when kids are tattling on each other all the time. But how will they learn when it’s okay and when it isn’t? I’m glad I’m not the only one hating this idea.

  3. Thomas Marlowe

    Tattle bear sounds like a lousy idea – devolving a teacher’s responsibility to deal with problems and sending the message that the concerns the kids have are not actually important. Beautifully written article, even if the subject matter makes me gnash my teeth

  4. Cameron

    Ugh. Ten years nannying for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school students leaves me annoyed beyond reason with tattling. BUT. I still take a deep breath and ask Felix when he’s tattling, “Is someone being hurt? Is something being broken?” They’re not perfect questions, but they help him remember when it’s time to come to me versus working it out himself. The Tattle Bear is lazy and not productive at all.

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