How do you handle requests from students to go to the bathroom during class? Every so often you will see a news story that focuses on a teacher who did not let a child use the bathroom during class causing them to have an embarrassing accident. Restroom use during class is a sticky issue that deserves some thought so that you do not end up on the news. Each one of us has experienced sitting in a meeting when they have to really use the restroom. People retain less information when they are focused on their need to relieve themselves. Therefore, it is important that you provide a way for students to use the restroom but at the same time maintain control within your classroom.
Issues with Restroom Use
A couple of issues exist that cause teachers to be wary of using the restroom whenever they see fit during class.
- It can be very disruptive. One of the most annoying things to a teacher is when they are trying to hold a classroom discussion and when they call on a student who has raised their hand, the only thing they do is ask if they can go to the bathroom.
- It can be easily abused. Every teacher has encountered a student who does not have a medical issue yet who asks to go to the bathroom each and every day.
- Roaming the halls is not acceptable. Most schools have strict policies concerning who can be out of class. This helps the school maintain control and keeps disruption to other classes to a minimum. You don't want to be in the hot seat by allowing too many students to leave your class at once or by having your students cause a problem when they are supposed to be in your class.
Ideas to Help Control Restroom Use
What can you do to allow students to go to the bathroom when they really need to but at the same time maintain control?
- Make it a policy that only one student can go to the bathroom at a time from your class. This relieves the problem of having too many students out at once.
- Give students a time limit to the amount of time they are allowed out. This will help cut down on students taking advantage of leaving the class. You will need to come up with a discipline plan associated with this to help with enforcement.
- Institute a policy that students cannot ask to go to the restroom until you are at your desk or at a minimum not addressing the entire class. This is fine but remember that if a student has a medical issue of which you have been informed then they should be allowed to leave when it is necessary. You might want to consider creating a special pass for them for this purpose.
- Track who is going each day if you think there is an issue. If a student is abusing the privilege talk to them about it. If this does not stop the behavior, call and talk to their parents. I know if situations where a student was abusing the privilege each day without a medical reason. When the teacher denied them the ability to go one day, the parents called and complained causing a lot of problems for this particular teacher. A call to the parents before instituting the policy with that student could have helped because they would not have been getting the story just from their child.
Restroom use can quickly become an emotionally charged subject. Make sure that you spend some time creating and perfecting your own restroom use plan so that you can stay focused on teaching and not on this issue each day. You can refer to How to Create a Restroom Pass System
for more ideas.