Instructional momentum is the ability to teach a class and keep them enthralled by your lecture. In a middle or high school setting, it can be considered a slice of Heaven, a euphoria unbeknown to non-educators. One student after another sits at the edge of their seats, raising hands, laughing at your jokes, actually participating in the learning environment. A chorus of angels sing hymns unto you, O’ mighty educator, and then…
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
Cue in the canned laughter. Learning gains fall off the chart. Attention gone. And students sit back in their seats, slump over, and regain an all-too-familiar fish-eyed gaze. As a young educator, I would nod, defeated and hand them a pass.
By my third year, I had wizened up. And by that, I mean I developed a policy to spearhead the repeat “offenders” of the old, “I have to go to the bathroom and I might stay there for the next 20 minutes” routine. Because sometimes, students utilize the bathroom as an exit strategy. How would I know? Well, consider me a recovering bathroom-holic. I knew the teachers who would let me go every day of the week versus the smart teachers who would limit my toilet excursions. And yes, I would take gross advantage of them! Half the time I would not even go to the little Kreusch’s room. Instead, I would gallivant about the school, making my rounds in the hallway, and go back to class ten minutes later.
As an educator, that ten minutes can be the difference between learning gains and missed scholastic opportunities. Since my third year, I have provided my students three passes per nine week marking quarter, including water fountain trips. These I label in their “planner books” in pen. As a middle school teacher, each of my classes is, at most, 52 minutes long. The three such passes are useful for emergencies only. Naturally, this does not count as a pass to see the nurse. At least there, students can receive a pass back to class, confirming the fact that they actually did see the nurse.
I can hear your stifled gasps and accusatory questions: What if they run out of passes and they really really need to go? What if they have bladder issues? What if a student has an accident?
Obviously the “3 per marking quarter” is not a rule etched in the proverbial stone. If a student’s eyes are swimming and their face is turning a dark shade of purple, scribbling him or her a fourth pass remains safer than facing an angry parent 24 hours later. But to curtail the frequency of the repeat offender of momentum destruction, gently suggesting that a student wait twenty or so minutes is not a flush-worthy idea.