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Classroom Management: Dealing with Trips to the Bathroom

Janelle Cox

Restroom breaks during class time can be a tricky issue to handle. If you’re a frequent bathroom goer, then you know that it’s hard to tell a student that they cannot use the restroom.

Oftentimes students use the “I have to go the bathroom” as an excuse to get out of class and meet up with their friends.

But what about the students that really have to go? Should teachers be able to limit a student’s restroom use? Every so often, you read about the teacher who didn’t let their student use the bathroom, and now they are the ones who are being punished. We have all experienced at one time or another the sudden urge to have to get up and use the restroom while in an important meeting, or have been in a situation where you shouldn’t get up. So, we can sympathize with our students. But, our job as teachers is to decipher when students are just dying to get out of class, and when they really have to go. To help you separate the real bathroom breaks from the bogus ones we have come up with a few classroom management strategies.

Classroom Management: Don’t Let Them Go the First Time

Oftentimes students set up appointments with their friends to meet in the bathroom or in the hallway at a certain time. “Meet me in the hallway after your test,” or “Meet me at 8:30 in the bathroom.” Make your students ask you more than once. If they really have to go, then they will ask you again. When a student asks you to use the restroom, tell them to do something like finish their worksheet, or read the next chapter in the book. When you do this they often forget that they have to go, but if they really have to go then they will not forget. Tell them to remind you after they have completed their task that you have given them. Only then will you really know if they were playing you or if they really need to go.

Make a Classroom Policy

In the beginning of the school year, instruct students that they are not to disrupt any lesson that you are teaching to ask to go to the bathroom. However, they can quietly write their name and time on a sheet of paper and place it on your desk before they leave the classroom to go to the bathroom. Only one student is allowed to leave the classroom at a time and they must only be gone for a certain amount of minutes before they get penalized. If you see that students are overusing this policy then take them aside and tell them that they must see the nurse because they may have medical issue that needs to be checked out. This will help you decipher if a student really needs to go all the time, or they are just using the bathroom as a chance to meet with their friends.

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Three a Day

 Elementary students usually don’t try and meet their friends in the bathroom like high school students do, but they do like to get up and leave the classroom. To hinder students from always wanting to leave the classroom try implementing the three-a-day system. Give each student three lamented cards that have their name and room number on it. Each day students get three chances to use the restroom at their own leisure. At the end of the week the student (or the teacher) counts up how many cards the students used total for the week. For example, student A used one card on Monday, all three cards on Tuesday, and no cards on Wednesday, and so on. The more cards the students have left over on Friday, the bigger the prize they can get from the prize box. This system helps eliminate a lot of students from using their cards to just get up and use the restroom as a break.

Make sure that you take the time to really think about a classroom bathroom policy that works for you and your students. Once you figure out the system that works for you, you will have less classroom disruptions and more time to teach.

How do you manage restroom breaks in your classroom? Do allow students to go as they please or do you have a few rules they must follow? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.