I Can’t Wait!!!! – How to Handle Bathroom Breaks

When you are a student just dying to get out of class, a bathroom break looks to be the ideal ticket to freedom. The following suggestions for how to separate bogus potty breaks from the real thing are provided by Teachnet Contributors.

Pass the Book: Our school has a really good policy regarding bathroom use and passes in general. At the beginning of the school year, each student is given a handbook that has 2 pages for passes. A computer-generated label is placed on the front of the book and on each pass page. One page is for 1st semester and the other page is for 2nd semester. There are roughly 20-25 slots for each semester.
In order to get out of class, to go use the restroom, go to their locker, library, etc., they must have this handbook. If they don’t have it, then they can’t go. It’s as simple as that. If they fill up their 1st semester side in the first quarter, then they aren’t allowed any passes the second quarter. If the student loses his or her book, they have to buy a new book. Ours cost $5 each. The office staff will then pro-rate the number of passes they have left depending on the number of weeks left in the semester. If a student is caught tampering with his or her book or gets caught using another student’s book, then they lose all passes for the remainder of the semester. -David Calkins

Just Say No: I never let a student go to the restroom when they ask. I find many students set up appointments with other students in other classes. “Meet me by the restroom at 10 a.m.” I delay them at least 5-10 minutes. I’ll say, “Finish this assignment and then ask me.” I find that the ones who really have to go will remember to re-ask, and the ones who just want out will forget all about it. Plus delaying them causes them to miss the person they were supposed to meet. It’s a good test to determine who really needs to go and who doesn’t. -Stephanie Brown

Borrowed Time: I guess I thought that the bathroom dilemma would be one that the students would outgrow. Apparently not. My third and fourth graders constantly insist that they must go NOW. Despite constant reminders of the fact that we just came in from recess and that they should have gone them. And then they make faces, and get all jumpy, and what if they really do need to go or else?? So now, unless I receive doctor’s notes medically explaining the need for these all too frequent bathroom breaks, I now tell them, “Sure! You can go NOW, however, choosing to do so will cost you $5 or 5 points (Depending on you class room discipline system.) This also works great! Take out a stopwatch and tell them that you’ll time how long they are out of class and that that time will need to be made up on their time–after school, during PE, or whatever. I guarantee that it works. If they really have to go that badly, they’ll suffer whatever consequences. But the ones that just want to get out of class will certainly think twice about it and with their most dramatic “winch” will tell you that they’ll try to hold it. And these same kids have the nerve to come whining twenty minutes later, insisting that they are dying of thirst and therefore need a glass of water. HA! Hope it helps. -L Shaub

Go Quietly: A bathroom policy that I have used in the past seems to work quite well. I have each student write on a 3×5 card their name and I keep the cards in a index card box. If a student needs to use the bathroom, they find their card and write the date and the reason (example: sick, need a drink). I tell the students they are not to disrupt the class. They quietly sign their card and leave. I also tell the students that at the end of the quarter I will compare how many times they have used the bathroom compared to their classmates. If they use it a lot more, I tell them I will need to call their parents in because perhaps there is a medical problem that needs attention. The system really works well, and I have never had to call a parent because of overuse of the bathroom privilege! -Patti Fawver

Checkout Time: I started a system this year that seems to be working really well with my 2nd graders. I had 3 laminated cards made for each student with their name on it. I put a library pocket on the side of each desk to keep them in. If they need to use the bathroom, sharpen pencils, etc., during class, they need to give me a card. When all 3 cards are gone, they lose a recess for every time they need one of those things. On Friday afternoon, I give a ticket to each student for every card they have left. Then we have a drawing for some small prizes. It really works well. It allows for 3 “emergencies” every week. The kids really stop and think about whether they need to go right NOW. -Loren Mead

It’ll Cost You: I am a firm believer in the consequence for extra trips to the bathroom, too. During independent work periods, my students may take a tag and go to the restroom as needed, one boy and one girl at a time. If they ask to go in the middle of instruction time, they must pull a card. Like someone said, if they need to go that badly, they will suffer the consequence. However, once I told that to a student who rarely pulled cards, and she declined to go the rest of the day. Her mother called me and really chewed me out. She felt that since her daughter rarely abused the rules, I should have cut her some slack. She demanded that I let her daughter go to the bathroom whenever she asked, and since I was new at it, I reluctantly agreed. You can imagine how that child abused the rule then. Now I stick to the rule. This year I have a student who misses a lot of school and constantly wants to go to the bathroom, and she brought a doctor note. I called the doctor and asked what the medical problem was. There was none, except she might have a small bladder. I still have her pull a card when she abuses the privilege. -Nancy Rausch