Earlier this evening Scott McLeod shared this tweet:
It made me laugh a little because I used to be that teacher. During the second semester of my second year of teaching I had a couple of students who were the bane of my existence. They would constantly ask to go to the bathroom because they knew they were supposed to go before they came to class. Well I got smart and I showed them who was in charge. I limited them to two bathroom passes each quarter!
I was so proud of my rule change and I could not wait to share my brilliant idea with my principal. Instead of telling me right up front that my idea was the most asinine thing he’d ever heard, he gently guided me to that realization on my own. He started by asking how many students used the bathroom more than what I believe to be a reasonable amount of times each week. (It really was just 2 or 3.) It was on that day that I learned to never, ever make rules for all based on the actions of a few.
Then he asked me the most obvious question of all. “What are you going to do when a student asks to go to the restroom but they are all out of passes?” He pointed out that all I was doing was setting myself up for a power struggle and he was right. I also learned that day to never make rules that I could not enforce consistently.
A couple of years ago I came across this brilliant post by George Couros called One Rule. I have adopted the Nordstrom rule for my classroom and it has led to some great discussions with my students. I don’t waste class time providing them with a laundry list of all of the things they can’t do. Instead, we spend time discussing what using our best judgement looks like. They tell me what it looks like, I don’t tell them. This might not sound like a big deal, but it makes all of the difference in the world.
If you are a new teacher the best advice I can give you is to empower your students and pick your battles wisely. Getting hung up on how many times a student uses the bathroom is not the mountain that you want to die on.