Tattling in Middle School

Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.

tattlingEven though tattling versus reporting seems like an elementary concept, it can still be difficult for middle school students to grasp. In middle school, students sometimes do not report things that are going wrong because they are afraid of being labeled a “snitch” or a “tattletale” by their peers. Helping students understand what behaviors should be reported and the importance of reporting can help encourage them to do the right thing.

The best way to ensure that students know the difference between tattling and reporting is by explicitly teaching them the two concepts.

  • Tattling is saying something to get someone else in trouble. Tattling involves an issue that adolescents can solve on their own.
  • Reporting is helping to keep someone safe. Reporting involves an issue that adults need to help adolescents solve.

reportingExpress to students that they can be discreet when they report. They can tell a teacher privately at the end of class or, if they do not feel comfortable telling the teacher directly, they can reach out to a school counselor or principal.

To help students learn how to respond to different situations, think of situations that occur in your classroom or school. Survey the class about how they would respond in the different scenarios. Have a discussion about why the student should report or how they could solve the problem on their own.

Here are some examples. If a student tells an adult about the following situations, is it tattling or reporting?

  • Someone is staring at me in class. Is it tattling or reporting? Answer: Unless the behavior is making you feel very uncomfortable, this is tattling. If something is annoying you, talk to the other student and let him or her know the behavior bothers you. If you are unable to resolve it on your own, then it is a situation you should report to an adult.
  • You witness another student cheating on a test. Is it tattling or reporting? Answer: This is a situation where you report the behavior to an adult. Even though nobody is in danger, an adult needs to know about the behavior. It is not okay to cheat on a test.
  • A group of students are not allowing someone to sit at their lunch table. Is it tattling or reporting? Answer: This is a tricky one. Students could try to first solve this problem on their own, but if they can’t they should report the behavior to an adult. It is not okay to isolate or exclude someone. If it happens consistently, it is a form of bullying.

How do you teach students about the importance of reporting?

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About Danielle R. Schultz

School Counselor blogger for Free Spirit Publishing Blog
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