By Teachers, For Teachers
I think a lot about other people’s bathroom needs. I know that sounds a little odd, but if you’re a teacher, you totally understand.
Somehow teachers seem to develop an odd superpower- the ability to gauge whether small children actually need to go to the bathroom or they are simply putting on an Academy Award worthy performance. We single-handedly dispense bathroom passes with amazing accuracy while simultaneously doing seventeen other things, and managing to hold our own pee like camels. (Or at least I imagine that camels hold it…I’m not entirely sure that’s true.) I don’t think there is enough respect for this particular super power, and have thought about starting a movement to get our own comic book series – the adventures of Power Pee Princess, Urine Queen, or something equally appropriate.
However, there are times when our super powers fail. I don’t know what disrupts the all powerful Teacher Judgment…perhaps it’s a result of navigating the urgent faces and various “pee pee dances” of fifteen other children who just asked, but who knows. And those times are devastating. It may sound dramatic, but really… would you like to be responsible for someone else’s pee-soaked pants? (Or the resulting puddle that everyone has to tactfully avoid?) Yea, it’s not pretty.
Once, I had a student who peed when she was angry with me. On purpose. If I spoke to her because she was being disruptive, she would close her eyes, scrunch up her face, and pee. Right there on the carpet. It never seemed to bother her that she ended up with wet pants because she always got a very satisfied “so there” look on her face as she went back to her seat, leaving a big, wet spot defiantly behind.
My exceptional pee-on-command student aside, constantly determining every child’s true need to go to the bathroom is extremely draining. I know it may not sound like a lot, but it manages to wear down even the most gifted teachers. There are days when I think I might shove a pencil in my eye if one more person interrupts my brilliance with a desperate plea for the restroom. So, every year, I attempt to implement a system that lets children independently decide when to use the bathroom but still allow me to monitor the frequency of their trips. Each year my system needs to get modified to fit the dynamics and level of maturity of my particular class.
Here are a few ideas I’ve tried…and may the force be with you.
· Create a pie chart in which each “slice” indicates a place in the building a child might need to go (e.g. the boy’s bathroom, the girl’s bathroom, the nurse, etc.). Write each child’s name on a clothespin that is permanently clipped near the chart. When a child needs to leave the room, they move their clothespin to indicate where they have gone. Lay some simple ground rules for Good Times To Go, and voila!
· Use a sign-out log near the door. Have a new page for each day, a space for the child to sign their name as well as indicate the time they left, and the time they returned.
· Hang a set of bathroom passes near the door. With the children, determine a set of rules for appropriate bathroom use. Encourage them to independently take the pass if they need it. If the pass is already gone, they have to wait. I have often seen other teacher’s use something hard to leave behind as a bathroom pass – a small cymbal, a block of wood, or a ski (I’m totally serious – I’ve seen it done. Try losing that one, kiddo!)