Should students be expected to wait for scheduled bathroom breaks? Of course!
Why have scheduled bathroom breaks at all, if we do not expect students to use them? Why not just allow students to raise their hand, announce their need to use the facilities, and walk out of a classroom any time they feel like it?
For a moment, imagine the classroom without pass limitations. Theoretically, with 25 students in a class, a teacher could be interrupted every two minutes with a request for a hall pass. Or, if another system is used and students simply pick up a generic Hall Pass Card on their way out the door without interrupting a teacher for permission, there is simply too much potential for a few students to abuse that privilege. There is no teacher in the world who has the desire to police bathroom passes; not one of us is so petty or controlling that we want to force a child to be uncomfortable with a full bladder.
However, the question at hand is whether students should be EXPECTED to “hold it” until a scheduled break. I do expect that, every day, in my classroom. That doesn’t mean that I am not interrupted in the middle of making an important point by a student who needs to use the bathroom that minute. It happens, and if I believe that the student is in distress I will hand that student a pre-printed pass and ask him or her to complete it with his name and time of departure before allowing him to leave. But I EXPECT students to understand that there are regular times during their school day when it is appropriate to use the facilities.
At my high school, the administration has a rule that no passes can be given during the first or last ten minutes of class. Each class normally lasts fifty minutes. That means that teachers may give out passes during the central thirty minutes of class to students who require them. Of course, that also means that students are likely to be interrupting the most productive minutes of class time with requests for bathroom passes.
I’m a parent as well as a teacher, and I understand that exceptions to the “wait for the break” rule may occur. Once, my daughter had a UTI and I sent a note to her teacher explaining the situation and asking her to allow her extra restroom passes for a few days until it had cleared up. She had no trouble accommodating my request, and indeed I can’t imagine any teacher having trouble with such a request. But in ten years of teaching high school, I have only seen ONE parent note asking for a special accommodation for a student. Out of how many passes written? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand?
The reality is that there are dozens of interruptions to instructional time every day. Surely, it is reasonable to expect students to wait for the break unless an emergency forces them to request a pass, and it is reasonable to expect teachers to use their best judgment about when such an emergency actually exists.