October 18, 2011

"Can I Go to the Bathroom?"

I swear I'd make more money if I had a dollar for every time I heard this during the school day. Substitute teacher = busy work = students do anything to get out of class. There needs to be a revolving door from my classroom to the bathroom. I know it's not popular policy, but I think my life would be easier if I took the whole class on a bathroom break like in elementary school!

A local suburban high school was in the news this week because of a new bathroom policy. Evergreen Park High School teachers now have the administration-supported option of limiting students to three bathroom breaks per semester, and apparently, this is causing quite the uproar among parents and students.

I'm totally this teacher!
First of all, I would like to point out that the article says this is an option for all teachers. Meaning, every teacher doesn't have to take on this bathroom policy. And furthermore, we're talking about three bathroom trips per semester per teacher. That's a lot of time out of the classroom!

Also, the policy doesn't limit bathroom privileges beyond the initial three, it's just that students are required to make up any learning time outside of the regular school day. My high school German teacher had a similar policy in her classroom. We could choose to leave, but then we had to come in for "quality time" with her for 15 minutes to make up for it. It was a decision we made. Many decisions in life come with consequences. Even then, I didn't think it was a bad policy... inconvenient, yes, but not bad.

In my classroom, I used a punch pass for locker/bathroom trip to help my students determine when they really needed to leave, and when they were just trying to get out of class. I allowed students to turn in any unused punches for extra credit at the end of each trimester, and this, too, was a good motivator for my students to use them wisely. And, even as a substitute, I only allow students to leave my room during their work time, never during instruction or small group activities.

I understand that a four or five minute passing period doesn't leave a lot of time for the bathroom. But even as a teacher, that's when I can go... and that's only if I'm not setting something up for my next class or answering student question during those precious minutes.

I also understand that students have all the time in the world to socialize with their friends during that time, and then the second the bell rings, that's when they have to use the bathroom. And, of course, they claim it's an emergency.

To address students with urinary issues, those should be addressed in 504 plans. These are accommodations for students with medical, not learning needs. It's very common to see a 504 plan that basically says a student should be permitted to use the bathroom or drink water at any time, even if this isn't the norm. And like the urologist said in the article, it's not going to harm a healthy student to hold it.

I'm sorry, but I just don't think it's a bad policy. Feel free to enlighten me if you do!

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