In elementary school, my urination rights during school hours were limited by my teachers, who only permitted me to use the bathroom twice a day. Once I used up my two bathroom sticks, I wasn’t allowed any more trips to the toilet.
As my freshman year approached, I looked forward to the independence I would obtain in high school. Not only would I have the big-kid privilege of walking around during student resource time, but I would also have the freedom to use the bathroom on my own terms.
To my surprise, I quickly learned that many of my teachers still limited students’ use of the restroom. Teachers told me to wait until the end of class or until another student returned. Sometimes, they would just entirely reject my requests.
Why do teachers get to have a say in when I go to the restroom?
A bathroom waitlist often forms in my classes when multiple students simultaneously ask to go. It is not unusual to see people grow increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated while they wait for their turn.
As students’ needs to use the restroom becomes more dire, they also tend to lose focus on content being taught in the classroom. It is very hard for me to concentrate on my schoolwork when I am restricted from using the bathroom, whether I’m taking a test or just completing a worksheet. When my bladder is screaming for relief, factoring polynomials or memorizing Chinese dynasties becomes an afterthought.
It is understandable for teachers to deny herds of students from using the restroom, especially when some mysteriously end up in a different part of the building or are found munching on snacks in the cafeteria. However, teachers should refrain from automatically assuming that all students have the tendency to exert bad behavior during their bathroom breaks.
Students are well aware that the decision to miss class may result in missing content. It’s their responsibility to determine whether going to the bathroom is worth the sacrifice.
That being said, even permitting two students to use the restroom at a time will relieve some stress. Asking a student if they can wait rather than rejecting their request will make a difference.
Allow students to have the freedom to make that decision for themselves, rather than making it for them.