Every teacher has student who repeatedly request to see the school nurse.
Every teacher has faced the dilemma of establishing a restroom policy or trying to stave the issue of students leaving class during the school day.
After all, our job is to teach...and we can't do that as well when the student is not in the room.
We take regular restroom breaks throughout the day, and when students take advantage of those times, it certainly helps with the problem.
But as they say, "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go." I know what you mean, kid. I try to hold it in, too, but sometimes we just need to use the restroom.
The teacher's note in the picture above certainly reflects the frustration that all teachers have with these chronic needs, excuses, and plots, but this teacher's approach is unnecessary. Many of us find it hard to believe that Mrs. White couldn't rectify the situation with a policy that would be more tolerant and compassionate. How could she not predict that this would cause a moral and legal problem for her and her school. It is outrageous.
At the beginning of my career, I tried to limit students to using the restroom only during those regular break times - every hour to 90 minutes during the school day. It seemed reasonable to me that if a child, by fourth grade, can sleep through the night without the need to empty a bladder, then he should also be able to go about his day in similar fashion. But as adults, we know there are other factors at play. Sometimes, the need comes more sporadically and visits to the restroom simply do not stay on schedule.
A teacher must understand, especially since we are expected to stay on a restroom schedule, as well, not being allowed to leave students unattended for hours at a time, which means sometimes we have to suffer. There's almost a whole chapter about this in the teacher manual. Well, not really, but it sounds like there could be.
So the dilemma is this: is there ever a time when children should be made to wait a reasonable time to visit the restroom during the academic process (I think other departures muddy the conversation.)? Is there room for balance or compromise on the restroom issue?
We try to use our regular breaks to deter other needs, but they don't always work. When I am in a lesson, directly teaching the class, I have to ask myself several questions:
- Is this child trying to avoid working?
- Has this child been paying attention to the lesson?
- Has this child been actively disrupting the lesson?
- Does this child ask to leave on a regular basis?
- Does this child ask to leave at the same time every day?
- How long must this child wait until the direct lesson is complete and students are working independently?
I would suggest that there should a reasonable amount of time that I can ask a child to wait without an accident occurring. Ten minutes seems a reasonable wait. If she can't wait ten minutes, she should learn to feel the need sooner. We've all been there - for me, more times than I care to remember - when we wondered if we were going to make it, and those ten minutes can be agonizing. I understand. But I must weigh the disruption with the need.
And oh how I despise making that judgment. I don't know how the child feels. He's just come off of summer vacation, where he had ultimate bathroom freedoms. He could go in that little room any time he wanted, day of night. But now, he's in my class, placed on a tight schedule, and expected to sit there in the room without messing his pants. How can I possibly make a judgment call of whether he is being honest with me or not.
So if a kid can't wait ten minutes, she needs to let me know it's urgent. And basically, I just have to take her word for it. But it can't happen a lot. And it can't always be an emergency. I shouldn't enable the child without attempting to train her to go when she can, and then - just maybe - she won't have to go when she shouldn't.
As an educator working under the rules of a school board, I understand the reasons for not being allowed to leave students unattended, but that's exactly what I do every time I allow a child in the hallway without my supervision. Although it's probably not an extreme danger, there is always the possibility that child will get into something or someone will get to them while I am not watching. So I attempt to discourage unscheduled breaks. That doesn't mean I won't let them go.
I don't know Mrs. White, the teacher who made the note above, but she must have had enough. She limited her students to two unscheduled breaks a month, but did she have to approach it in this way? The bottom of her note even acknowledges that "Mrs. White is petty." To that we must agree.