The day I became that crazy no-bathroom-for-you teacher.

I made a little kid cry the other day. I teach 1st grade, and while I think I’m decent at what I do I’m actually not the super-cute type of teacher. I rather always fancied myself teaching upper elementary or even jr. high and I haven’t quite pegged down the usual lower elementary personality traits. My point being, it’s not entirely unheard of me for to wind up with a crying kid. They’re kids, they cry.

What I do feel bad about is why I made this little kid cry. A reason my deeper soul has made apparently meaningless claims about.

The stupid bathroom.

What is it with schools and young students using the bathroom? Google the subject and you will find pleas from parents and doctors for teachers to not be so rigid and anal about the matter. You will find teachers sharing their bathroom control strategies.

Really. Bathroom control strategies.

Now, in fairness, I don’t teach upper grades. I know little about this secret world of teenagers feigning to use the bathroom to such scales high degrees of classroom management must be slapped down upon these rebels.

I teach in a little world of early literacy and mathematics with to-the-point lessons where I really don’t care if someone needs to use the bathroom. While sneaking off to play isn’t completely off the table, the vast majority of my students upon requesting bathroom access need to use the bathroom, or need the walk to and from the bathroom.

Yet my school is weird about the whole situation. No, there is no official school policy on bathrooms, but the culture is one of bathroom control. It would seem all the other teachers have strict policies and procedures for using the bathroom. Paying classroom money. Using a token representing a strict quota of daily bathroom sojourns. It’s not that I’ve been told to stop letting kids go to the bathroom outside of recess in so many words… but the implication is there.

Do I believe using the bathroom at recess is a good idea? Oh, yes. I encourage it. I even ask, when we are nearing that recess time, if they can wait. It’s a good habit when used reasonably and responsibly. Ah, but how quickly does that reason and responsibility turn into anything but?

Without being told to not let my kids use the bathroom, I was told. The pressure fell and it fell hard.

And next thing I knew I had a crying kid in my classroom.

Of course I apologized and let her use the bathroom. She was a good kid for the most part, like most first graders. If she threw a rave in the bathroom, we would address that. But she didn’t. She left for the bathroom and returned a short time later. There was no evidence of chaos.

So why do we put such bizarre emphasis on controlling students’ bathroom habits, especially in elementary school to such a degree we’re exchanging cutesy bathroom patrol ritual ideas?

Mine? I have the hand sanitizer bottle. It is placed on desk and the kids can even sanitize their hands afterwards. I hate the culture of hand sanitizer, but it works for this purpose. There’s other simple methods. I even heard once of a teacher who just let the kids go…

In this data-obsessed world, does a bathroom break interfere with the flow of the lesson? Does it encourage a plight of sympathetic urination? Does it cause a headache when enough kids request to go in a certain timeframe?

I personally don’t think it’s worth the headache of attempting to control or worrying about it.

They’re little kids. They have small bladders. They have small attention spans where a jaunt down to the restroom may be precisely the break they need. If problems arise, address them as they go.

I saw myself become that crazy bathroom-obsessed teacher when I told a little kid she couldn’t go. I didn’t like that me.

I pledge to return to being a little more reasonable about the bathroom.

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