Substitute issues: Bathroom Passes & Anger Management
Substitute teachers seek advice about managing lavatory requests and how to control one’s anger in the face of challenging behavior by students.
Dear Barbara - Advice for Substitute Teachers by Barbara Pressman
The author of Substitute Teaching from A to Z (McGraw-Hill, 2008)
Regular contributor to the Gazette
June 1, 2009
How should I handle requests for the bathroom?
I notice middle schoolers try to make bathroom passes an issue sometimes. They often test the teacher by going one after another. I usually tell them no more passes if they abuse it, and it works. But it seems to depend on how the teacher handles the issue. I tried my usual pass stoppage with a 6th grade class recently, and they went bananas, becoming very dramatic about their bladders, etc. They said their teacher lets the entire class go, and gets it over with. So I called the aide, and she had them go one table at a time. Have you heard any solution for this seemingly small problem that kids like to make a federal case out of? Come to think of it, one teacher of the gifted just let them come and get the pass at will and use it anytime without asking. That seemed to work with those kids.
Your bathroom scenario sounds so familiar! Here is another example of how subs are at the mercy of the culture and climate that the classroom teacher creates.
The best system is where the bathroom passes are hanging by the door, and students go out one at a time. No disruption of instruction occurs. Students feel free to leave when they must.
Try to find out what the policy is for your class. If it’s the one described above, then follow that policy.
If the culture is one where students must interrupt to ask to go the bathroom, I would state a new policy for today. Take a large index card and label it Bathroom Pass, or have a sign out sheet near the door.
Tell students that your policy is for students to go one at a time. They must bring the pass with them and return it. The pass can be placed near the door in a prominent place. Be matter of fact about your system.
If students complain about “bladder abuse,” ignore their manipulative conversation. Be very sure of yourself. Tell them that your policy works very well for all your classes. Your system is fair and reasonable.
Barbara Pressman is an adjunct professor at the College of Education, Florida Atlantic University. She has been a classroom teacher for more than 20 years, and a supervisor for student teachers for 10 years. She currently mentors Substitute Teachers as well.
Teachers.Net asked Barbara how she came to be interested in writing for substitute teachers. Her response:
I have subbed for many years during my teaching career. When my children were small, I found subbing to be a wonderful "free lance" job. At that time, I took on a 6th grade long term subbing assignment, which led me back to full time teaching. Upon retirement, I went back to subbing once again.