School Bathroom Breaks – No

The bathroom situation is the bane of every teacher’s existence. No matter how regularly the teacher schedules bathroom breaks, nature calls at the most inappropriate times, such as during lessons or hands-on practice when there’s information that the teacher doesn’t want the student to miss. In the ideal world, teachers should have the right to deny a student’s request to use the bathroom within reasonable limits. However, it doesn’t always work that way.

Every teacher has at least one child who is a compulsive bathroom user, and in many situations the parent is the enabler. For example, Hector had an accident when he was in kindergarten. The outraged parent called the school and told the principal that she did not approve of the teacher or of her teaching methods, and that if she had allowed Hector to use the restroom when he asked, he wouldn’t have suffered the humiliation of wetting his pants in front of his classmates.

When he entered first grade, Hector’s mother spoke with the teacher on the first day of school and ordered her to allow him to use the restroom whenever he needed to. As a result, Hector spent much of his first grade year wandering back and forth between the bathroom and the classroom. He often took twenty minutes at a time in the bathroom, and he became a regular fixture at the water fountain.

This is an extreme example, although very real, but the fact remains that many children overuse their bathroom privileges. Teachers do not always have the right to say whether or not the child can use the bathroom. They have to let them go, regardless of the circumstances.

Tasha, on the other hand, was not a chronic bathroom user. She’d had a bathroom break ten minutes earlier, but shortly after arriving in class her face grew red and she began to cry. The girl next to her yelled out, “She gotta go to the bathroom REAL BAD!” I told her to go, but it was too late. She had to get some new underwear and shorts from the nurse after a sudden bout with diarrhea. And then there was Ginny, my little drama queen. Ginny had also just been to the bathroom, but she didn’t go when she was in there. When she asked to go to the bathroom fifteen minutes after I’d just sent her, I told her to go sit down. She peed in the seat. I got several unhappy phone calls later that afternoon, the first one from the principal and the next one from the child’s mother. She wanted to have Ginny removed from my classroom because she didn’t approve of the fact that I wouldn’t allow her to go to the bathroom whenever she wanted, even if she had just gone.

My original policy about bathroom breaks was that they were fine during independent practice, centers, and at any time other than when I was teaching a new lesson. However, after a few bathroom accidents and a couple of irate phone calls, I decided that it was just safer for me as a teacher to let them go whenever they wanted, even if they ended up like Hector, getting no education whatsoever because his mother gave him permission to spend his time wandering in the halls.