You know it’s harder than it sounds to keep track of your students. When I taught third and fourth grade, I had two sections with 22 kids each. People were going to the restroom, the nurse, the library, tutoring, speech, dyslexia intervention, etc. all day long. That's a lot of coming and going to keep track of and, say, teach at the same time. However, “umm” is not a very professional answer to “Where is little Johnny right now?”
I also realized I did not care when my kids went to the bathroom. As long as it wasn’t the middle of a lesson and they weren’t working with a group/partner, it was good. The only problem is it can’t be good for 14 kids at the same time.
After 400 years of teaching (at least it felt that way), I was able to solve both problems with a simple bathroom rule and a chart.
Here’s a picture of my Where Are You? chart in my old classroom:
Each student had a class number. You could put names, but I had two sections and that’s what worked for me. The last two boxes were the most important: Restroom/Water Girl and Restroom/Water Boy. Going somewhere? Move your magnet. Back? Move your magnet. The end.
I cannot tell you how much easier this made my life. I could keep track of my people without the constant bathroom/water questions.
When I made my chart, I knew all my Type A friends were going to want to make one that exactly fit their needs AND their classroom theme. Put up a hot pink and turquoise chart in your super hero themed room? HECK NO. (Type B friends-I know you’re laughing at us right now.)
You can buy the editable chart here. There are different layouts with different numbers of boxes. You can edit the text, fonts, and colors of the grid and background. There are even a couple of options for background patterns. I had it printed on 11x17 glossy card stock at Office Max for about $1.50.
As long as you feel comfortable working in PowerPoint, this should be good for you. I even made a video on how to make the changes.
In the spirit of honesty, here are some things that take time to workout:
•You tell students the bathroom rule, but they don’t believe you.If your kids have never walked out of the room without checking with a teacher, they’re not sure that you’re really telling the truth. Here’s a chart you can download to send them to. DON’T TELL THEM THE ANSWER. They will keep asking your for the next 179 days. Lovingly tell them to check the rule chart to see if it’s a good time. Here’s one you can download for free:
•Kids come back from the restroom but don’t put their magnet back.It takes a little time for this to become a habit. Plus, there is no rage like a nine year old who has been waiting to go to the restroom when she could have gone 10 minutes ago. Your students will pretty much solve that problem for you.
•You put your magnets in a color pattern. Someone changes them everyday.Give up. I am a super observant person. My students swapped their magnets out ALL THE TIME, and I never saw one kid do it. I had to let go on this one.
•But it’s an emergency.You know what? Sometimes it is. But sometimes kids want to go to the bathroom 47 times a day. If I feel like someone is taking advantage of the system, I gently pull them aside and share my concern that here may be something wrong if you need to go to the restroom four times in an hour. I also let them know if it keeps happening, I may need to call mom about getting you to the doctor to make sure nothing is wrong. That usually takes care of it, though I have had called home two or three times to share my medical concerns.
**Don’t just blow off avoidance though. Sometimes it is as simple as I don’t feel like doing this assignment or they’re just drunk on new bathroom freedom. Often, there are some bigger academic or behavioral issues that this is a symptom of. Solve the bathroom problem but also address the source of these kids' needs.
Got any bathroom management tips for me? I’d love to hear them!