Nobody likes a snitch

Sunday July 15, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/7/15/education/11644069&sec=education

TEACHER TALK
By MALLIKA VASUGI

While most people would justify snitching on others, there is a fine line between talebearing for selfish reaons and telling on micreants to expose wrongdoing.

CALL them finks, tattletales, squealers or plain sneaks, nobody likes a snitch and this is probably true even among those who snitch.

But the truth is, people who convey unflattering reports or tell tales about their colleagues to the bosses are found in every organisation, and this includes schools.

The airing of grievances or dissatisfaction in the school staff-room among colleagues who lend each other their ears is common, and the staff generally look out for each other.

There is an unwritten code of loyalty and understanding among staff members that what they talk about amongst themselves is for the sole purpose of letting off steam.

Sometimes, however, there lurk people who make mental records of what has been said, to be used as “prime evidence” when currying favour with the higher-ups.

The sad thing about these episodes of tale-bearing is the way the truth often gets distorted or embellished to suit whatever dark motives the informant may have.

Why do people snitch on others? What do they get out of it? The person who snitches is usually trying to gain favour or to get into the good books of the one in authority.

Most of the time, however, the main objective of the snitch is to elevate their own standing in the eyes of the bosses by casting aspersions on the character, work or conduct of the colleague they snitch about.

What they fail to realise is that while there may be bosses who directly or indirectly encourage tattling among their staff by eagerly lapping up whatever is leaked to them, the discerning boss would know that the snitch is a person with little loyalty towards their colleagues and whose integrity is in doubt.

Even if there are loud protestations and justifications of “having to tell on someone for the sake of the common good”, there is more often than not a degree of malice in the act.

Snitching comes easy

In the school setting, when there appears to be definite gains in being favoured by the principal, it is easy to be a snitch

One need not strain one’s ears to hear expressions of discontent from teachers who are disgruntled about certain administrative policies, new education rulings or what they perceive to be unfair workload.

It is not uncommon to hear people griping or complaining about things that don’t always please them or suit their purposes.

While the world as a whole could benefit from less discontentment, the tendency to complain is human nature and none of us can say we never do it.

After all, we ourselves are far from perfect. We all slip up from time to time.

There may have been times when we honestly forgot to enter our class during our scheduled periods because our minds were preoccupied with another teaching duty.

There may also have been times when we got so upset about a ridiculous ruling that we spoke our minds about it openly.

Sometimes we may even utter a not-so-flattering remark or two about the apparent intelligence of the people who have designated us such duties.

However, most of the time, after venting and expressing their two cents’ worth, teachers (being a responsible lot) proceed to carry out their assignments and often even surpass their own expectations.

Venting and bonding

Oftentimes teachers have legitimate grouses. But, whatever it is, there is usually a bonding and feeling of kinship in the airing of grievances – the feeling that whatever we are feeling is understood by the people we work with, and that we have all gone through the same thing at one time or another.

This would be the case if the issues that are criticised are not major enough to provoke hostilities which would negatively impact work performance and the school as a whole.

So there are times we grumble against people in authority, we talk about inconsistencies in the implementation of administrative policies. There are instances we feel the bosses have shown favouritism in doling out goodies.

This is normal human behaviour and those in leadership should understand that their decisions will not always be warmly received by their subordinates.

There will be those who question their actions, their motives or even their personal lives, wrong though it may be.

But this is the undocumented part of a leader’s job description. Dealing with those who question their decisions will require honesty and transparency, or even open dialogue where workers can express themselves without fear of recrimination.

Thus those at the helm should be the first to discourage the culture of snitching and turn away people who, under the guise of meaning well, proceed to download or upload the conversations, grouses, oversights or blunders of their colleagues.

No matter what reasons they give for snitching on others, tale-bearers are for the most part self-seeking.

The question that looms is whether there are instances when snitching serves a good purpose. Again it is impossible to make sweeping statements.

A snitch in time

While ratting on others is generally frowned upon, there are times when valuable information can surface to put an end to wrongdoing.

It is usually the class snitch who informs us about who has been copying from whom on the test, or who is doing their Math homework during English class.

At times it is the whistle-blowers among groups with plans for cutting school or smoking sessions who alert the disciplinary board to take action before things get worse.

Reporting on undesirable activities should definitely be encouraged or even rewarded.

Schools need to be aware of what is going on, they need to know of students’ secret activities in the same way parents have a right to know about their children’s whereabouts, simply because they are responsible for those under their care.

However, students should never be encouraged to snitch on each other about unfavourable remarks about your teaching or about what they think of another teacher.

Relishing this kind of snitching does nothing for the teacher’s image, shows his insecurity and detracts from the dignity of his job.

Likewise, among superiors and subordinates it is difficult to plug your ears when someone says: “Do you know what so-and-so said about you the other day?”

We may brush it off later by saying, “It doesn’t matter, I don’t give a hoot, Let people talk, I don’t care”, but many of us do care.

That spark of indignation against the person who has criticised us may turn into resentment if not dealt with.

No matter how much the act of snitching is sugar-coated, the truth is that it is poisonous.

Teachers and educators would be wise to remember this and not encourage snitching among those under their authority as it can destroy the goodwill and teamwork necessary in a vibrant school set-up.