Back to School - Bathrooms! September 07 2009

You know it when you see it – a kid wandering down the hall, looking at bulletin boards and student artwork, peeking into classroom doorways, swinging a hall pass. Not a care in the world, savoring the sweet taste of freedom.

That kid is coming back from the bathroom.

Going to the bathroom is a popular exercise, otherwise known as playtime. And while I don’t begrudge kids having to use the bathroom – I have to go every day too – I try to cut down on the amount of times kids leave my classroom during each day.

Routine Stops

Since my first year teaching, my policy has been to go to the bathroom during travel time. Usually this means a stop on the way to or from lunch or a special, but it also means that students stop on the way to recess or on the way back. Since students want to get as much four-square or tetherball time in as possible, they’re more likely to make a bathroom stop on the way back. Therefore, I add a few extra minutes after the recess bell rings to give them time to do that without penalty, and remind them that it's a FREE pass!

Classroom Routine

In one of my earlier blog posts, I wrote about having a class money system. Whether you use a similar system or one completely different, consider making bathroom breaks a part of that routine. With class money, it’s simple to charge kids to use the bathroom outside of a routine stop. If you don’t use a system like this, I’ve found that charging them recess time helps cut down on recreational bathroom trips. In the past, I’ve charged five minutes a trip or a minute match to how long he or she is gone to the bathroom (they can wash their hands in the classroom to cut down on minutes as well as insure handwashing actually happens).

The Pass

If you don’t have a system, you could also institute a Bathroom Pass. I’m a “get-er-done” kind of lady, so bathroom passes without a purpose are too open-ended for me.

At one point, I made a bathroom pass on a regular sheet of computer paper, but I made each one half-size, so two passes fit on one sheet. Then I cut them and handed one to each student. When a kid had to go at an appropriate time, he or she would bring the pass to me. I would tear off a corner and he or she could go freely and without remorse. But the sheet only had four corners, and those corners had to last the entire quarter. Very effective. I included a template:

Bathroom Pass

Systems concerning students using the bathroom make for cutbacks on “Bathroom Vacations” and increase the chances of students actually being in your classroom!