Managing the Bathroom

I am pretty lenient when it comes to using the bathroom in my class.  I really only restrict it when I am teaching or we are in the middle of something that a trip to the bathroom would ruin.  I wasn't always like this.  I used really be strict on bathroom use, until I had a class that pushed me to my breaking point.  You see, this 4th grade class just wouldn't use the restroom....ever.  They preferred to go right in my room.  Yeah.  It was lovely.  I was almost at the point that I was just going to conduct class in the bathroom itself so as to avoid what was inevitably happening with 8 or so of my students (yes, I said 8...4th graders....8 of them)

So anyway, after that year, I really loosened up.  I want my students to go to the bathroom whenever they have to, without me questioning them, but still with them being held somewhat accountable to going.  So, since starting the classroom economy a few years ago, I started "selling" the students bathroom passes.  These are quite desirable in my room and, while they do cost classroom money, they aren't so overpriced that they aren't affordable.  (my students earn enough money just coming to class each day and doing their job that they can afford the bathroom without going into debt...and the passes are sold at a "discounted rate" from that)  On the bathroom pass, they are allowed 10 trips to the restroom.  Each time they go, I mark out one space.  When they have used it up, it is done and they usually just buy another one. 

And why are these fabulous for me?  Well, it gives the kids the freedom to really feel like if they need to use the bathroom it is ok, but they are also not just going any old time (because they don't want to waste the money they did spend on something they don't really need to do, you know?)  This also gives those kids who do need a break from the room a way to get out for a second, cool down or just give their brain a break, and come back without being questioned by me. 

Using these little punchcard passes has made my life (and that of my students) SO much easier.  There is no bathroom problem in my room anymore and students really feel like they can go whenever they need to.  We are living in a happy world (as far as that is concerned!)

How do you manage the bathroom? 


  1. Since I teach in a pull out special education room, I tend to not have to many problems with bathroom issues. My struggle though is that I have one student in particular who likes to take 10 minutes bathroom breaks. It is very difficult to break them of this habit, and they like to pull this right when it is time to start working on an assignment. He seems to be the only student I need to limit the amount they are allowed to use the bathroom on.

  2. My students are to use the restroom from 7:30- 8:00 before school. We take a bathroom trip around 9:45 or a tad earlier, then after lunch around 12:40. They usually get more bathroom breaks than I do in a day! LOL Now, I do have 2 students w/ bladder issues, so they are allowed to go more frequently. If I feel they are trying to abuse it, I stop it right there. I know have 2 boys that want to be "special" too. I tell them, that if there's a medical reason for frequent trips... ie almost an hour after we go in the AM, then we need a note. Some are just trying to get out of class!

  3. I'm with you on being pretty lenient and definitely agree about that sometimes needed take a quick break, cool down thing. However, I am nowhere near as organized about it as you are and I love this idea (wow, what a surprise, haha!). Thanks Stephanie!!

  4. Great idea, Stephanie! I just need to get myself as organized as you to make it work!

  5. My students have a mouse shaped name card with a magnet on it. The rule is that only one boy and one girl may leave at a time and they must put their name card on the magnetic board at the door before leaving. If I am busy, they just flash the mouse at me and then with a nod from me, they go. I also do not allow students to leave in the middle of instruction or in the middle of a working with a partner time. This seems to be working. I do have 2 boys that need to go more often, and I will ask them to give up some free time if they are gone too long. At first, they were going for up to 15 minutes sometimes. This leads to lots of missed work. Now that they have to give up some of their time, the trips are shorter!

    Charlene/Diamond Mom

  6. I had a fourth grader wet this year, too! Crazy! He was asking me if he could go and then, did...on the floor. Poor kiddo!
    Anyways,, I give them 2 passes at the beginning of each month. Just make simple ones that say "December Bathroom Pass". Then they can use it that month only. IF they don't use any that month, they get stapled together and turn into a homework pass. If they use one, nothing happens. If they use both and need more, they sign out on clipboard, and each time it's worth 5 min. of recess. Works for most kids, but still have 2 boys that need to go almost daily...maybe because I let them keep water bottles in class?...I am hoping now that it is cooler, that will die down!

  7. Two years ago, I had a third grader who wet herself, so I've been pretty lenient ever since! I let them go when they need (only one at a time), but if they ask during direct instruction, I question them first to see if they're "going to have an accident" or not. Otherwise, they will just make up an excuse whenever they want. Looks like this year is the year for "2 boys". I also have 2 boys who spend a total of probably 20 min. a day in the bathroom. They go about 5 times a day. I asked their mom and she said they go frequently at home too, so I just have to live with it! Fortunately, the bathrooms are very close to my classroom, so that helps.

  8. I really like this idea. I especially like that the idea of a "brain break" is a built in possibility, but that they have to really make a decision about whether or not it's what they need or if it's worth it, given that they have to "buy" it. In my room, we have a non-working snack for 15 minutes each morning, and I send kids to get drinks and go to the bathroom by tables (4-5 students). They have lunch mid-day, and then I do the same thing right after recess while kids squeeze in some independent reading, which is a nice way to chill them out for the afternoon to come. So far it's working, but your system has me thinking!

  9. Thanks everyone for sharing the stories! I love how we can all learn from each other here :)

  10. I have always been pretty lenient, as well. I just don't feel like I really need to know every time they need to go to the bathroom. I've got a toddler at home on a potty schedule, I don't need 28 more at school. With that said, I have a few boys this year that are totally taking advantage my lenience, especially when it is journal writing time :) I am totally going to implement your punch card idea as soon as we get back after Christmas break. Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. You are brilliant! This is my problem exactly -- including the multiple 4th graders wetting themselves despite the fact that I'm pretty lax with the bathroom policy. Unfortunately, every bathroom or water need has become an "emergency," so I have no way to gauge the veracity of whether they really need to go. I clearly have several students abusing this policy, and since I already have a classroom economy in place, this seems like the perfect fix!

    I hope you don't mind -- I'm going to blog about this and post a freebie of my bathroom passes, but I'm crediting you with the idea and linking back to your post.

    Thanks again for the great ideas!
    Eberopolis: Teaching Reading & Writing with Technology

  12. As a high school teacher I have the fortune of not having to deal with anyone wetting their pants. However, managing restroom passes can be an issue, as well as lockers.
    I really like the passes. I think I will create some that are RR/Locker passes for high school students.
    I think I will use them as a reward for positive behavior.
    Thanks for the idea.


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