Monday, July 30, 2012

Classroom Management Monday...."I have to go to the bathroom!!"

We all have been in a meeting or some other inescapable place when the "urge to purge" has struck! And as teachers, we don't really have the luxury of going to the bathroom when ever we please (I usually run to the bathroom in those few precious seconds while my lunch is heating up or at the start of my prep period before I tackle my mile-long to-do list).
You would think that we would have a little more sympathy for kids who raise their hand in the middle of a lesson to let you know that they have "got to go!"  I always ask the obvious question, "Is it an emergency?" And of course it it...and it usually leads to a firestorm of other kids who just have to go too!
I hate saying no, because don't you know, when I do, that kid will end up having an accident or I get a note or call from home asking why I refused to let Johnny/Janie use the bathroom (and the story is usually embellished with tales that I NEVER let him/her go to the bathroom EVER! Yes, I am THAT mean teacher!!)
I had a love/hate relationship with having a bathroom in my classroom the year I taught 3rd grade. And I have continued that love/hate relationship with having to take my class to the bathroom as a group 2-3X a day and with letting them leave the class during instructional time to go as well.
My two biggest reasons for hating the bathroom issue are 1) loss of instructional time and 2) abuse of this privilege by my very smart and savvy 4th (soon to be 5th) graders.
So what can I do..I can't refuse to let them go (see above) . In the past I have had rules about when they can/can't go outside of the 3X a day we went as a class and I had them take a hall pass.  Of course there are always a few of my little friends who like to abuse this privilege. I have been scouring the web (okay, Pinterest)..looking for solution that will  address the abuse of this privilege.
Here are a few of the great ideas I have come across...I am crediting the bloggers connected to the links in Pinterest, so if I have incorrectly credited someone please email me and let me know.  I would also really appreciate you clicking on the link below to answer the poll I created in Google Docs. I want to hear from my followers as to which one they like best. I will implement the most popular one in my classroom this fall.

1. The 2-in-1 Hall Pass/Hand Sanitizer: I thought this one was pretty clever when I saw it on Pinterest. There are several variations floating around PinLandia but I thought this would be easiest for non-crafty me to create! This one is from Stephanie at 3rd Grade Thoughts. Pretty clever huh! However, it doesn't really address the abuse issue. But it would tell me who was out of the room, and I could also make sure they were using the hand sanitizer afterwards (some times I wonder....)

2. Bathroom Chips: Mrs. McComish at Monarch Madness gets the credit for this. I like the fact that at the end of the week, she rewards students who don't use them all.  I think this would definitely address the abuse issue. I can see me making some cute black/red polka dot chips and a cute basket for them to throw them in (before they head out the door to the bathroom).

3. The Punch Pass:  This one is very cool too, and if I ever figure out the whole Vista Print thing, I would definitely consider doing this. Again, it addresses the abuse issue, and I could tie it to some type of reward for those who don't abuse it.  I got this idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6.  Very cute, huh! Not sure about the purchase price thing...maybe have them use their SOAR bucks to purchase one.

So how do you all handle this issue in your classroom? I would love for you to leave me a comment and let me know. I would also love it if you clicked HERE and took my little poll about the three ideas above.

Before I leave you, I had to share this awesome sign that I found on Pinterest when I was looking for bathroom pass ideas.


  1. I have this issue too. I don't have a bathroom in my classroom, however, I have so many students that always have to go..and I ask the same question.."Emergency?" I had to give my students 3 Popsicle sticks a day. They could use them for bathroom breaks or anything like the nurse that required leaving the room. It worked well! Some students were beginning to realize how much they were leaving when they went through 3 sticks before noon!

  2. Ugh! This is the worst part of upper-elementary!! They abuse bathroom & locker passes like crazy! Because of this, I had to use a firm "NO passes while I am teaching." If they HAD to go, they just had to wait until they were given something to do independently, so it didn't interrupt instruction.

    I like the chips/popsicle sticks idea. But, I'm wondering if any of the more mischievous ones could figure out how to manipulate that one, as well... I guess you'd just have to keep a close eye on it.

    I've also see a bathroom log where the students write their name, the time and leave and then when they get back. Then, you can find out who's gone often and for long periods of time. This could be used in a combo with the chips/popsicle sticks.

    Another suggestion would be to allow 3-4 passes a week, and use a stop watch or timer as the pass. If they are gone less than 2-3 mins. maybe there's a small incentive, or if they're gone 5 or more there is a penalty? Not sure how it'd work..

    Good luck!