Ever found yourself in a position where you simply need to go, yet are unable to?
Yes, I’m referring to what you’re thinking. It’s a frequent call. It’s a frequent call from nature.
We have all been there. Powerless and wondering just how much longer you can physically last. It can happen at the most inconvenient of times. From those never-ending car trips, to those times at work when even bunking off to the toilet would be seen as an opportunistic attempt to waste time.
In our classrooms, students attempt this on a daily basis. We all know why they ask. It’s a chance to escape, a chance to briefly be alone and more importantly, chance to knock as many minutes off the clock as they can before returning to their seat.
Students use this tactic in a variety of ways. In my 3 years in the classroom, I’ve had students use a tiny cut as a potential excuse. ‘Can I go…?’ ‘NOPE!’
I’ve also had those using a stuffy nose. ‘Can I go get some…?’ ‘No, I’ve got some here!’ They moan, they groan, but eventually find their way back into the rhythm of the class.
This used to bother me. ‘Oh God, my teaching must be really boring? Why is it the same ones always asking? I hope he doesn’t go home saying he’s bored out of his mind!’ These were just some of the things I’d often wonder to myself. Now I take the requests with a pinch of salt. My rule is simple: go before class.
Paul found himself in one of my louder, more excitable classes this year. This class, much more so than others this year, love trying their luck with the toilet down the hall. They valiantly fail each and every time.
Paul’s classes last an hour. For this hour, it’s important to have variety, and transitions from one activity to the other are oh so crucial. If one isn’t satisfied, they will chance their arm. Half an hour into the class during a transition, I feel a tug of my arm.
‘Can I go to the toilet?’ I refused without hesitation. Paul wasn’t happy. It’s not easy seeing children in your class upset or angry, but give them something to do and they usually forget to ask again.
Roughly ten minutes later, he asks again. This time in Spanish, citing that he had drank a lot of water before the class. This was during an activity that even he appeared to be enjoying, so I thought it as odd. I once again refused, telling him that the he could go in around fifteen minutes, which would have been the end of the class. He accepted, reluctantly.
I kept an eye on him for those remaining fifteen minutes. Something began to tell me that little Paul was in fact in need of the toilet. He looked distracted and uncomfortable. Perhaps the little bugger was telling the truth all along. For the remainder of the class I hoped and prayed he wouldn’t wet himself in front of everyone.
Closing routine for Paul’s class involves me asking where they were going, to which they would reinforce old vocabulary from a previous unit (as if they were going to the butcher’s or bank immediately after class!).
Paul tried his best to get as close to the front of the line as possible, upsetting some of the girls along the way. I ordered him to join the back of the line. Looking back on it, I wish I could be this tough on my teenagers!
By this time Paul was hopping on the spot as he waited to leave. He was also uninterested in acting up in front of his friends Peter and Jamie. He was only thinking of one thing.
Finally, his turn had come. I held aloft a flash card as he approached.
‘I’M GOING TO THE TOILET!’, he yelped, bolting out the door.
I’ve got to hand it to him. Firstly, he held it in. Secondly, he used perfect English despite all that was going on around him. Kudos.