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.