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Being a 'snitch'

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by gisburn16, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. I have a very challenging, inner city, year 6 class, who although I have built up a good relationship with them, when I'm not in the class they are shocking. They have a real culture of keeping quiet when questioned as they don't want to be called a 'snitch'. Does anyone have any ideas of lesson (PSHCE.Circle time) that I can run to help overcome this problem and for children to see the merit in talking to others particularly before they leave me for secondary school, Thanks!
  2. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Spot on; this is an incredibly difficult learned behaviour to overturn, because it's usually learned not just in the playground but often at home. It becomes a culture, implicit and tacit in everything they do. And of course it's a tragic tribalisation of children that only rewards the aggressors.
    Turning this around will feel like turning the Titanic. One thing that might help is to subtly reward students who tell you things, unconnected to snitching- create an atmosphere where children are happy to tell you about normal stuff, or things that worry them for example. That way they see you as a good listener. Congratulate them for doing so, openly and publicly.
    A trick I learned from an old hand was this: if you have something you're investigating- a 'he said, she said' or a 'who stole the pen' felony, interview pupils separately. If you have someone you're PRETTY sure is responsible for the crime, you can just say, 'Why did you do it, Danno?' and see their reaction. Follow up the inevitable 'It wasn't me!' with, 'I have three people who all said you did.' It's the oldest cop goof in the book. But kids aren't Professor Moriarty, and most will crack, or give themselves away. Of course it's manipulative, but this isn't Crown Court.
    He also used to use it in a more sweeping way: accuse someone who saw the crime OF the crime, and say, 'But Jasmine saw you do it.' They will often burst with indignation and shop the real culprits.
    That strategy is a minefield, of course. You're welcome.
    A circle time discussion would be good, although if you're not careful it could reinforce consensus. Take any kid who supports anti-snitching and deep mine their views: ask these questions:
    • Why don't you like snitching?
    • What other words for snitching could we use?
    • Why might someone disagree with you?
    • What benefits are there to telling an adult when something bad happens?
    • What bad things could happen sometimes if you don't tell?
    Try to get the kids themselves to find the answers based on your guided questions. That way they'll take more ownership of the ideas they're discussing. Because of course this isn't a discussion- this is talking with a purpose: your purpose, which is to their benefit. With the right questions you can usually get the right answer (see: all courtroom dramas)
    A final, harsher strategy would be to sanction them if they DON'T tell you when they've seen something wrong: for example, a kid in a corridor who sees a fight but won't tell you who started it, could be kept behind or miss a break. But the danger there is that they might feel intimidated by the bullies into not talking, and then you've got a perfectly nice, scared kid doing time. Best to avoid this if you can.
    Better still to get them to see you as approachable, and a teacher they can trust with the truth.
    Good luck

    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.

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