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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Doing the pee-pee dance

Saw an article in the Washington Post today about high school kids getting extra credit toward their grades if they can hold their bladder and not need to use the bathroom during class. This strikes me as being a bit extreme. I mean, we all know that there are some kids in every school that ask to use the restroom for the sole purpose of causing trouble (and often property damage). But to actually give a lower grade to somebody whose eyes are turning yellow and whose back teeth are floating??
Maybe it's just because I teach in the lower grades, but I have never heard that system even proposed. I have had kids actually use the bathroom on themselves in my classroom, so now I am always leary about what basically comes down to a game of "bathroom chicken."
Student X: I gotta use it!
Me: We just took a class bathroom break 20 minutes ago.
Student X: It's an emergency!!
Me: Oh, come on, you just went, you don't need to go again.
Student X: Oh yeah, watch this!
Student's face starts turning red, grunting sounds began emanating, etc.

I have found two tricks that usually work pretty well. The first is to give the child a choice in the matter. "OK, you can go to the restroom now, but you'll have to sit out for 10 minutes of recess." It's amazing how often that statement will provide relief for the kid's bladder and make a trip down the hall not so necessary anymore.
The second, when I'm pretty sure that they really do need to go, and when it's a child I have trust issues with, is to time them. I usually give the boys one minute and the girls two minutes, and I tell them if they're not sitting back at their desks again when that time is up, they'll miss 10 minutes of recess (or 15, or 22, or whatever strikes my fancy at the time).
Of course there are some kids who just couldn't care less about whether they have recess or not. These are usually the same kids that consistently do not do their homework or bring back required signatures from their parents. But for the most part, those two tricks work pretty well for the majority of my kids.
And really, can you imagine if that extra credit policy was implemented for teachers? Teachers who go all day long without using the bathroom get some kind of incentive pay? I think I would've forfeited that ten times over by the end of the first week. There have definitely been times when I have had to practically run down the hall to take care of business. And then come back and hope that the kids are still working, and that my class troublemaker isn't standing up on my desk, doing the truffle shuffle.

11 comments:

happychyck said...

I have those classes--those years--where I could understand implementing such a policy. Two classes last year started this rotating potty thing--basically 2/3 of the students had to go during the class period. Only one can go at a time, so I nearly went mad writing out hall passes. Not to mention, I was starting to wonder WHAT was in the bathroom. Think like a teenager... Someone leaves a little afternoon pick-me-up and everyone get to share a little nip or toke. Oh! And then those left waiting: "MISS! I gotta go. Maria's not back. You should give her detention." PEOPLE! Just let me teach. You sit and learn. Manage your time better. Everyone has to! Including me.

Let me add this to MY list of things I don't miss this summer: managing bodily functions--my own included.

Mrs. T said...

Can they really legally do that? Isn't it an infringement of civil liberties? Seems pretty uncivil to deny people access to the bathroom? Even Turkish prisons have a pot.
Ok, having said all of that, I HATE it when my lesson is interrupted with "can I go to the bathroom?" With my seniors, I figure they are almost adults and I just told them as long as they didn't abuse it, if they needed to go, they could just take their planner (we use it as a hall pass)and go quietly and discreetly and would be held responsible and accountable for any material covered in their absence. Lord knows I need to leave sometimes.

Spanky said...

I know of a female grade school student who was continually plagued with bladder infections. One of the first courses of action was antibiotics and empty the bladder more often. Out of embarrassment, the child pleaded with the parent not to let the teacher in on her medical condition. So, while some students may use the potty excuse to help break up the monotony of the day, others may actually have a legitimate reason.

Mister Teacher said...

Happy, thankfully, I don't have to worry about kids leaving joints in the bathroom stalls. Instead of "little afternoon pick-me-ups" at my school, the kids are more likely to leave something on display INSIDE the toilet bowl...
Mrs. T, I don't think it's violating anyone's civil rights, as they ARE allowing kids to use the restroom -- they're just taking away potential grade-points. But you and I both know we take away these kids' freedom of speech every single day, if you want to get technical...
Spanky, you are absolutely right, and in fact I have had kids with problems like that as well. That was my first thought when I read this article -- do they make allowances for medical conditions?

KauaiMark said...

Subs have the same problems...
Bathroom Olympics

Mister Teacher said...

Well, to be honest, I would prefer the Bathroom Olympics to the "race to the finish" that I encounter every time I give a test...

Tim Fredrick's ELA Teaching Blog said...

It does seem to be a bit odd to give extra credit if you can hold it. My students wouldn't care about it anyway! Not sure why girls get more time than boys, but I'm sure there is one ... In high school, I think students should learn to be independent in terms of going - I just don't let my students go while the whole class is in discussion or paying attention to a mini-lesson.

Mister Teacher said...

Well Tim, I give girls two minutes and boys one minute mainly because the girls have to sit down... I figure that's worth a little more time.

Anonymous said...

"Not sure why girls get more time than boys"

The article's about a high school. Lots of girls start menstruating before they graduate.

A girl may need to use the bathroom every one or two hours to change pads or tampons on heavy flow days. Sure, if she uses a menstrual cup instead then she can hold in the fluid for six to twelve hours, but some 14-year-olds prefer pads because they don't feel ready to stick things up their vaginas yet and their schools really shouldn't pressure them to start earlier.

Anonymous said...

Also, here's a reprint of a NYT article about school bathrooms:

http://www.modiba.net/wordpress/?p=13

"...Researchers throughout sub-Saharan Africa have documented that lack of sanitary pads, a clean, girls-only latrine and water for washing hands drives a significant number of girls from school. The United Nations Children's Fund, for example, estimates that one in 10 school-age African girls either skips school during menstruation or drops out entirely because of lack of sanitation..."

Mister Teacher said...

Anonymous, I think that Tim was asking why I give girls more time in MY class setting. I don't think that the original article talked about giving girls more time. And I teach third-graders, not high schoolers. I shudder to think that any of my girls are menstruating...