Can I pee?

It has always driven me crazy that I have to “give permission” to my kids in order for them to attend to some basic human needs.  “Mr. Bogush, can I use the lav?”  “Mr. Bogush, can I get a drink?”  Could you imagine having to email me each time you needed to pee!  Or call down and get permission from the principal to go to the bathroom!

Last week I made a deal with my homeroom that I will no longer give anyone permission to use the bathroom or get a drink.  The reality is, I just need to know where they are, and out of courtesy, I would like them to tell me before they leave the class.   “Mr. Bogush I‘m going to the bathroom.”  I like that sound of that much better.

If we feel the need to control when they pee, then we probably also feel like we have to control a whole host of other actions.  What kind of other rules do you have in place that at their core are meant to control kids?  Even when a kid talks out in class you can try to control the kid—“you will be quiet because I said so.”  Or you can handle it so that the kid is placed in a situation in which they decide to control themselves.  So many people complain about kids not being responsible.  Maybe we can start by allowing them to be responsible for when they pee…what a renegade thought eh?

I know what you are thinking…but if you set your class up in a certain way, no, all of your kids will not spend then entire period in the bathroom 😉

Some past posts written in a similar vein:

Whose room is it?
What are your kids responsible for?


  1. When our kids were homeschooled they would often eat/drink whenever they were hungry, wherever they wanted to — a favorite spot being on the floor in front of the woodstove (and many times naked!). The girls and I would chuckle about how if they were in school they would be told when & where to eat/drink (and would have to wear clothes!) — how ridiculous, those ‘poor school kids’.

    Additionally, they had the freedom to pee when needed (and sometimes where — remembering youngest running outside to use grass in lieu of the loo once, lol) — although it did seem ‘chore time’ was synonymous with ‘nature calls’ (mama wasn’t making chore time enough of an adventure it seems.

    They are both ‘poor school kids’ now and it has been interesting hearing their perspective on ‘schooly scenarios’ such as requiring permission to use the bathroom. (They need permission to get up and throw away their lunch trash, too. Ugh!)

    Are we basically good or bad…are we capable of controlling ourselves or do we need others to do that…is what’s going on in the classroom more interesting than what’s going on in the bathroom…

    Expect – and support- kids (and adults) in acting responsibly and they will.

    So much of this ‘schoolishness’ (rhymes with foolishness!) simply comes from the logistics of managing groups with a “control mindset”– and then after time we just assume it has to be that way. Yes, as teachers you need to know where the kids are in the building, but striking a respectful balance in this area speaks to a larger philosophy of how you view the child/adult (student/teacher) dynamic.

    OK…off to you know what 😉

  2. I think many teachers are worried that if they give up control, kids will be everywhere and not focused on class. It’s just the opposite. I have little ones who would are mortified to ask to go to the bathroom, but in my class they just take care of what they need to (bathroom, drinks, sharpening, etc) when they need to. We talked about when it would be inappropriate times to sharpen, etc., they handle it great and worktime/grouptime doesn’t have to be interrupted with basic needs ?’s. New teachers – take heed early on!

  3. Amen! I love your point about bemoaning the lack of responsibility in children while at the same time completely controlling them. Ugh.

    I’m grateful for a bathroom in my first grade classroom so that kids can use it anytime they want/need to. I used to have a set snack time (because we eat lunch at 10:40) but I decided this year that they can eat their snack anytime they want as long as it doesn’t disrupt anyone else who is learning.

    That said, it surprises me how difficult it can be to give up control of things. Even when I firmly believe in doing so.

  4. The bane of my existence is whole-class bathroom breaks. Seeing an entire class of 9, 10, 11, or 12 year olds lined up in the hall (outside my office, no less), only a few of whom can actually use the bathroom at one time, the others, just waaaaiting around, tick-tock, tick- tock go the instructional minutes, wasting away…. bah. So not only do kids have to ask “Can I pee?” throughout the day, they also have to line up and proceed to the lavatory and pee use the facilities at times their teachers tell them to do so! Let…go… everything will be okay!!

  5. Okay…I am not one to make comments with the fear of sounding ridiculous, but here goes. I agree that I think it is completely ridiculous that kids have to ask to go to the bathroom and get a drink. When you think about their lives a few years from now, you know when they are in the real world, they are never going to have to ask to do those little things.

    Now, I don’t really have many kids asking to go the bathroom during class because we encourage them to go during passing time, but with teaching 6th grade they feel it is absolutely to ask to do everything. I mean everything. Can I get a tissue? Can I sharpen my pencil? Can I get a peice of paper? Can I get out my book to read? I sometimes look at them and say, “Seriously, don’t ask me that. Just do it.”

    Some teachers don’t agree with me; they feel it is necessary for students to be respectful. I don’t really see asking these questions as a sign of respect. I don’t agree. If they can do these things without causes utter chaos, then we are a okay.

    My only final thought is…which I am sure other teachers may be thinking this…or maybe it’s just me. How is it working out for you Paul? Are students taking advantage of the priviledge? That would be my only concern.

    Woooo!!! Finished…I am a brave woman. HA!! 🙂

    1. Well said, Pam. Interesting that your colleagues cite the issue of ‘showing respect’…promoting ‘learned helplessness’ is so very disrespectful and demeaning to students (all humans, really)!

      Keep being brave!

    2. I love it, and so do they. Our interactions are now more like:
      Student: I’m going to the lav
      Me: Good luck

      Student: I’ll be getting a drink
      Me: Get two

      “Some teachers don’t agree with me; they feel it is necessary for students to be respectful.”

      I think it is more respectful to not force them to ask you if they can urinate. I think this creates a more respectful atmosphere.

      You should tell your colleagues that if they really respected you they should be asking you for permission to go and pooh….or maybe you should start asking them. I double dog dare you Pam 😉

  6. I am still a relatively new teacher, and I used to be one of those rather control-freakish sorts about the bathroom. However, after a couple of years in the classroom, I started realizing how incredibly “helpless” kids were in dealing with so many trivial issues such as this. Nowadays, my only “rule” about the bathroom or drinks at the in-class water fountain is don’t do it while I am lecturing (most of my lectures don’t last more than 5-10 minutes at the outside…they can hold it that long!). Our second trimester just ended, and the few students left that will actually come up and ask me if they can go to the bathroom usually garner a look from me that says, “Really??” We’ve had numerous talks about their capabilities and responsibilities, and such topics as whether or not they ask mom or dad if they can go potty when they’re at home…I start the year off with a talk about the tasks that I presume they are capable of, being 4th & 5th graders, and about basic respect. ‘Cause, yeah, I’m not going to ask my principal if I can use the restroom!

  7. heyyyyy,

    Haven’t talked to you in forever….. And that is very true, if you let us run free to a point we wouldn’t leave the room the whole time, what would we do? haha how are the new kids? Not as good as us of course 😛

  8. As I read this, it made me thing about childrens’ expectations. Yes, adults to expect a child to hold a decent amount of responsibility, but what about the expectations towards their success. I feel that if you put less pressure on a child for them to succeed, you will accomplish more out of them not only through their work ethic ur their originality, but also through the levels that they carry out their responsibilities. Who knows, maybe soon enough responsibilities will be instilled that a child can go use the lav without worrying about any harm that they may or may not be causing because now they’d know better.

    Looking forward to more blog posts 😉

    Sarah Castellano

  9. This is a bigger problem in schools (and life) than what most people are willing to acknowledge. In my class, when a kid needs to go to the bathroom, go to the nurse, or go to get a drink they just go. It drives me crazy that so many teachers complain about being micromanaged by administration but also feel the need to micromanage kids. This isn’t just a bathroom break problem. It goes even deeper than that. Thanks for shedding more light on this for people.

  10. Let me be the Devil’s Advocate on this one.

    Have any of you ever worked in a school where there was no control? At my old post, there was no control. Students were allowed to get up and leave as they saw the need, would wonder the halls, would stop and say hi to students who were in classes, would come in late and leave early. It wasn’t the policy of the school, I should point out, but those rules simply weren’t enforced and kids knew that any teacher who make an issue of it wouldn’t be supported. Most kids who left to use the bathroom got..well, lost. On not one occasion, students were found having sex in the bathrooms. The hallways were loud even if we kept our doors closed. I liked many of the kids I worked with, but I hated working there. What’s worse, if a kid on a bathroom pass decided to use the bathroom at his friend’s house instead of down the hall and then got in trouble, it was the school who was liable….not the kid or his/her parent.

    No, I’m not a fan of over control of students. Kids can sharpen pencils, get books, borrow paper without asking. But they do need to ask before leaving my room and have a pass when they leave. If schools are required to be legally liable for the whereabouts of our kids, we need to know where they go when they leave our sight.

    There just needs to be a middle ground between no permission and complete control.

  11. From my experience allowing them to go when they want works out just fine. As long as only one goes at a time I don’t see a problem.

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