This has to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever done in teaching, but I learned it from a veteran teacher and now that I’m a Coordinator I’ve passed the knowledge down to all of my teachers. On the outside, it looks like kids talking to the wall. From the teacher’s perspective, it is an amazing life saver and from the kids’ perspectives they always feel like they have someone to talk to.
This is the rough story of how we explained the pictures that had suddenly appeared on classroom walls. Tattle Dog and Whiny Kitty love to listen to kids and adults and they are just as kind and loving as the pets you have at home. The same way that there are special animals that have been trained to help people who are blind, or to help people dealing with a loss, or even to help the police -we have two animals that help kids in class. They are trained to hear all of the whining that you need to talk about. Just talking to Whiny Kitty about the little things you are unhappy about makes you feel better. Tattle Dog is trained to listen to all of the thoughts that are more about getting someone in trouble than actually telling the teacher something that is important. Just telling Tattle Dog helps you not have to think about what made you angry and then you can go back to the person you are angry at and talk to them.
We tried this because we realized kids needed an outlet for these emotions but the adults in the room did not have enough time in the day to hear them all. I remembered this working but once we decided to try it as a school for our lower primary, I was amazed at the results. Every classroom and specialist teacher has a Tattle Dog and Whiny Kitty. If a kid starts to whine, the teacher kindly says, “I’m sorry that is something you should tell to Whiny Kitty.” So the children get up and walk to the picture on the wall …. and talk to it. They almost always come away smiling. I think in part because their feelings are still acknowledged and they also like being “in” on the imagination at play. We now regularly see lines of kids after break times. They quickly pop by to talk to Tattle Dog or Whiny Kitty and then come straight to the carpet. They also don’t feel the need to repeat what they’ve told our friends.
We decided to spend some quality time talking about tattling versus telling and trying to classify what things would be important for the teacher to know and what kinds of things the animals should know. We haven’t had any problems with kids getting mixed up about this. Instead all teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 2 report less whining and tattling. A win! Click to download the freebie of Whiny Kitty and Tattle Dog, as well as, a few pages that we’ve added to help the kids know when to talk to teachers and when to use the class animals.
This idea came from Mona Veatch, who retired with early-onset Alzheimers. She was a fantastic teacher and this freebie is both made in her honor and as an effort to pass on her fun and caring teaching legacy.