5 Effective Tips for Managing Bothersome Bathroom Issues
Ahhh, the bathroom. It’s private. It’s quiet. What’s not to love? Well, ask any teacher and they will let you know it’s at the top of their list of agravations. How can you turn the bothersome bathroom issues around? Keep reading for some easy and dare I say “fun” ways to manage bothersome bathroom issues.
What's So Great About the Bathroom?
There are several issues at play here: 1) Students “need to go” at the worst times. How can they manage this by themselves? 2) Students “need to go” when they need a break from classroom work and responsibilities. How can you help them stay in class and manage their “need” to leave. 3) Students don’t use the bathroom at appropriate times. How can you get them to use the restroom before it becomes an emergency?
Procedure, Procedure, Procedure
A lot of shenanigans happens in the bathroom. Kids know that if they need to get out of sight then the bathroom is the way to go. (No pun intended) Let’s start eliminating (again, no pun intended) some “excuses” for using the restroom in the first place.
Tip 1 - Build Bathroom breaks Into Your Day
This seems like a no brainer but it’s actually harder than it seems. First, not everyone's bladder is on the same schedule so using the restroom in mass doesn’t seem like a good idea. But if you build a brain break/movement activity into your day then you’ve also create a perfect bathroom break time.
Brain break and Bathroom Breaks Go Together
GoNoodle (the wonderful online brain break service) can also mean-go to the Bathroom.
(You don’t know about GoNoodle? Ugg, well check it out here. GoNoodle)
Get ready for recess can also mean- go to the bathroom- but you have to remember to give them a little extra time and remind them to do so.
Back from recess can also mean go the the bathroom- but you have to remember to give them a little extra time and remind them to use the restroom.
Tip 2 - "No Go" Times
Since you’ve built time into your day for a bathroom break you can now require some no bathroom break times. When you teach this it’s important that students know that sometimes you just really have to go but that happens very very rarely especially after you’ve already gone.
I would do a half hour no bathroom break 3 times a day.
No Go - 3x A Day
When do you do “No Go” times. Well it did it during whole group instruction in morning meeting, reading and math. Those were the times I really needed full on engagement from all my students. So I built in a brain break/bathroom break before these times and then required full engagement. “No Go” times.
Set It Up for Success
If I did my part and had the brain break/ bathroom break for 10 minutes before the whole group engagement time then they had to do their part and give me their full attention, attendance and focus. We talked a lot about the expectations of each part of the day. The “No Go” times were high focus high engagement. No bathrooms. And to tell you the truth I rarely had any issues with kids needing “to go”.
Tip 3 - Eliminate the Ask
Having students ask if they can use the restroom is not my idea of using my teaching energies wisely. That’s why I used Bathroom Buddy. I got a 12 inch chubby bear and placed a sign “Bathroom Buddy” around his neck. When students needed to leave the room to use the restroom they would place bathroom buddy at their seat. When they returned they used the hand sanitizer that he was holding. Just use a ziptie and secure it to him. They would return bathroom budy to his spot and go about their business.
Bathroom Buddy Rules
Here are the rules for bathroom buddy.
Rule 1: only one person can use bathroom buddy at a time.
Rule 2: use one squirt of hand sanitizer
Rule 3: use the restroom quickly as bathroom buddy likes to sit in his special spot and gets very sad when he has to be away from it for too long.
Why Bathroom Buddy is the Best
The number one reason for using Bathroom Buddy is that it cuts way back on kids asking you the question “Can I go?”. But, the benefits go way beyond.
First fringe benefit is you know who is out of your classroom at a glance. This is particularly helpful during those oh so fun surprise fire drills.
Second fringe benefit is he holds the hand sanitizer and their for reminds students to use it when they return him to his home. (I also instruct them to wash their hands but…. Yah, we know how that goes.)
Fringe benefit 3 Bathroom buddy is a huge visual for me to see who is out of the classroom more than the others. I’ve tried the sign out sheet and if you’ve done a sign out sheet you know what a pain it is.
Tip 4 - Reward
Rewarding students for good bathroom behavior could be a bit controversial but I did it. I wanted to recognize a clean bathroom. I would do a surprise bathroom inspection. This is a little tricky with the boys bathroom so I would do it when I saw a male walking down the hall. I’d stop him and say “Can you investigate the boys bathroom for me?” He would then report back on if there were any paper towels on the floor etc. and then I would have him stand in the door of my classroom for literally 30 seconds while I stepped into the girl’s restroom to have a look. Then I would place a class reward point or two or three (depending on the cleanliness) in their favor.
Clean Up After Yourself and Others
Sometimes if the bathroom was less the tidy they would say “But we didn’t do that.” and I would say “Yes, but if you see a paper towel on the floor you should pick it up even if you didn’t throw it there.” I actually showed them how they could use their paper towel to pick up other’s garbage without touching it.
It was surprising how much cleaner the bathroom got when they knew they were responsible for their mess and the mess of others. I even heard something like this come from the bathroom once. “Hey, pick that up. Let’s keep the bathroom clean.” Whereupon, I gave a surprise inspection and then rewarded the clean floor absent of paper towels.
Tip 5 - Bathroom Issues = Deeper Issues
If you’ve got a student who “Needs to go” a lot then your teacher spidey senses should be kicking in. Does the student have an undiagnosed medical issue? Maybe there's an emotional issue where they cannot deal with the stresses of the classroom? You are going to get that “Wait a minute” feeling down in your bones. And when you do, don’t ignore it. Pay attention and help your student. Ask yourself why this student is using the bathroom so much and address the issue.
Goodbye Bathroom Issues
Bathroom issues don’t have to make you crazy. If you build in some bathroom break routines, have set “No Go” times, eliminate the “ask”, reward good behavior, and address student needs you are on your way to happiness. Remember, Tips 1-4 all require a lot of procedure training time. It is a pain and it does take time but so does dealing with bathroom issues. Take the time needed to give your students a routine and procedure to use the restroom.
Next Week- Is Going to be AWESOME
Next, week we will talk about homework. I’ve been waiting to share this post with you because of a special freebie that I’m working really hard on getting ready for you. You won’t want to miss it.