Monday, January 20, 2014


I have to go to the bathroom

We all use the bathroom, every single one of us. No one is exempt. As such, bathroom policies are
important. Each teacher surely has their own policy regarding bathroom and I encourage you to find the one that best fits your school rules and teaching personality.

When considering bathroom policies these are things to consider. It should disrupt the class as little as possible, cut down on unneeded breaks, and promote a healthy learning environment.
Here are some ideas:
  1. CROSS YOUR FINGERS: Students raise their hands with their fingers crossed when they need to go to the toilet. The teacher gives permission with eye contact and a nod.
    • Pros
      • This does not disrupt the class.
      • It is easy for the students to remember and act upon.
      • The teacher approves bathroom use monitoring time and frequency.
    • Cons
      • There’s no paper trail, so if you teach larger classes it may be harder for you to remember who has left class the most.
      • If the teacher is helping individual students it could be a while before they see the student (which frustrates the student). 
  2. BATHROOM PASSES (plus incentives): Students are given four bathroom passes at the start of the semester. They can use them whenever they want, but once they are done they are done. These passes can also be used if a student is late, or they forgot something in their lockers. If they do not use all of the bathroom passes at the end of the semester they can submit them as homework passes (aka extra credit). I know other teachers who use these as raffle tickets and students can win prizes.
    • Pros
      • Discourages students from missing too much class time.
      • There is a limit to the number of times students will miss.
      • Students can raise their hand with a pass in it so teachers may grant permission without disturbing the class.
    • Cons
      • Doesn’t take into account special circumstances.
      • Some students will use all of their passes immediately and then later claim “emergencies” requiring the teacher to bend or change the rule (deduction or points, letter to parents, etc.)
  3. JUST GO: This is a popular method for University classes. Students may use the restroom whenever they like, but they are responsible for whatever they miss in class. Thus, it is best for them to avoid bathroom trips during an active lesson. I let them know that their participation grade includes being present so excessive bathroom breaks are discouraged.
    • Pros
      • Encourages self-awareness. The student can leave whenever they like, but they need to make decisions on the best time to leave and be prepared to get any missed information from other students.
      • I tell students that if they overuse it they lose privileges and will not be permitted to use the toilet during class.
      • Adds to a casual feeling of the class which can help students enjoy class (key to learning!)
    • Cons
      • This method is more difficult to monitor as there’s no paper trail.
      • Some students take this as a sign that the class has no structure and thus focus less on the class.
  4. SIGN OUT SHEET: Keep a sign out sheet at the door. Students sign out when they leave and why (e.g. Carissa Peck-Photocopies). 
    • Pros
      • Works well for longer classes (e.g. when you have them all day, or more than 3 hours).
      • It helps students with their responsibility.
      • Teacher can monitor how often students leave, and will have a written record of where students are in case there is an emergency (e.g. fire, earthquake, lockdown, etc.)
      • Great for younger students who are learning to tell time as they get to practice that skill.
    • Cons
      • Some students find this too regulated and almost prison like which impairs their attitude during class.
      • Can be hard to set up in multiple classes.
      • Students tend to forget
      • If there is a time on the sheet, students often will lie to make it seem like they were gone less time then they were. 
  5. ONE AT A TIME PASSES: Keep a bathroom pass hanging on a lanyard near the door.
    Students grab it when they are headed to the bathroom. This can be combined with any of the above methods.
    • Pros
      • It regulates that only one student leaves at a time cutting down on socializing outside the class.
      • Students have “proof of permission,” so they won’t be in trouble if they are seen by an administrator out of class. 
    • Cons
      • Unless combined with one of the previous there is very little monitoring on the part of the teacher.
      • Sometimes this causes students to spend more time looking at the door handle to see if the lanyard is there rather than paying attention.
      • Germies get spread! I see many teachers who have switched to name tags to avoid the germs.
In sum, there are five different bathroom polices. I am sure one of them (or a combination of) will be great for your classes. Personally I change my method a bit from class to class. Normally I use a combination of at least two of the methods (3-5, 2-5, or 1-2).

What about you? How do you control bathroom breaks in your classes? Do you alter one of the previous methods? Or do you have one of your own?

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