You know about the parade. The one kid who legitimately needs to go asks and then it starts the parade of students who need to use the restroom. Or the best friend who wants to go with them. So now there are a bunch of students who are out of your room and missing on the only 30-40 minutes of music they get a week. What do you do?
1. Let them go
Is it inconvenient? Yes. Is it disruptive? Yes. Do you want to be the reason a child has an accident or develops bladder issues because they held it too long? NO. I know this isn’t the popular answer with a lot of teachers, but there are good reasons.
Did you know….
- Holding it too long can strain bladder muscles
- Increases chances of UTIs
- Increases risk of kidney infection
- Not letting them go when needed can actually cause more issues with incontinence or not emptying their bladder all the way.
- Some students have medical reasons they need to go (and this should be documented on health forms which you are required to have access to).
- Students with ADHD may have more bladder and bowel issues
Lots of students have unlimited access to water. Water bottles in the classroom, at their desks, etc. If students are actually hydrated and not from the lukewarm tasting fountain that didn’t have a good flow like I did when I was a kid, they are going to have to go a little more frequently. Not to mention you hated being told no you can’t go when you were a kid. It’s bad enough teachers can’t just use the restroom whenever, but let’s not displace that rightful resentment on students. As students get older (EX: upper elementary), your girls may have other reasons to step out of the room. We don’t always know what’s going on with a student. If you have a concern about a particular student that is always out, goes EVERY week, or asks multiple times, a conversation with the classroom teacher, a look at their medical records, or a conversation with parents may be in order. No matter what, it’s better to let them out and follow up later over having an issue in class because they weren’t allowed out.
2. Ask the teacher to take them to the restroom as a class before they come
If it’s a constant parade from the time the first student asks, especially if it’s near the beginning of class, have a chat with the classroom teacher. Ask them to stop with them on the way to music class. Or if you have to, take them as a class. It’s better to take those 5 minutes over a parade that you have to keep track of who is in and out.
3. Add a few classroom norms
- Have a pass or two at the door. Students can only go if there is a free pass. They must ask first (because I always want to know who is outside my room!)
- Or operate 1 student at a time. Don’t ask if someone else is already in line waiting at the door.
- Always teach students the norms of leaving the classroom. If you are like me, I want to KNOW who is out of my room. Some classrooms have bathrooms right in them or a who’s where tracker and teachers just let them leave as part of their classroom norms. If you don’t have that sort of situation, make sure they know the rule in your room.
- Unless it’s an emergency, try to stay in the room during ‘teacher talk’. This is the instruction time when I’m explaining something. I will always say yes immediately if it’s a game, a dance, or their work time. But if I’m explaining an activity, introducing a new topic, or giving instructions, I ask them if they can wait 3 minutes. If they can’t, I still let them go.
- Make your bathroom pass a 5 minute timer that can be wiped down. Have them set that somewhere safe in the restroom so they know if they’ve been in there “a long time”. Unless they are having a bathroom issue, this will help keep the wanderers and procrastinators from taking too long.
- Send a “buddy” if you know you have a chronic misbehavior or wanderer. Or have a classroom job for the month as the bathroom buddy (and have a few of them so one kid isn’t always missing class). They carry the timer and the pass. Yes, you’re letting 2 students out, but if it cuts down or removes the temptation of shenanigans, it’s worth it.
Bottom Line: Let students go.
I hope this has given you a few ideas to address bathroom issues this coming year.