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I felt as you did - that I wanted to give students some freedom about
leaving the room. Most did not abuse this; a few did. There were thefts,
and those locker slams, etc. I always hated to be the one who made the
decision about who went and who didn't as it was judgmental and it is hard
to tell who might abuse the privilege. Also, remember that in the
classroom you don't always have total autonomy about this sort of thing.
Administrative decisions are sometimes made without teacher input and not
letting students out might be one of those.
I have one solution to part of the problem which I did not try until later
in my teaching years - and I wish I had found it earlier. I used "bad day
passes" which allowed student to have a 'bad day' excuse. They could be
used for bathroom visits, locker visits, borrowing a pencil, and to cover
an absence. They got a number of them (your decision - I finally did
between 3-6 per 9 week grading period). I used a xeroxed form and handed
them out at the beginning. Then when someone wanted to use one, they
didn't ask me, they just gave me the pass and told me where they were going
(they also had to take the room pass with them as proof they were allowed
While this doesn't solve your problem, it does give the student autonomy
over their life. It also eliminated decision making on your part. Those
students who used their passes to cover restless impulses, use them up
quickly and then are unable to leave. It is their choice. Since I cleared
this with my principal, it worked. Also, while it seems a little
grade-school- level (and in fact it is used in behavior-modification
situations), it does work for junior high and high school students. They
always wrote their name on them (so they couldn't be 'borrowed' ) and
unused passes were turned in for bonus points on their grade. If you
equate the idea with "payment" for work in class it makes sense.
I hope I have explained this well. It seems like a small thing, but it
gave me a sense of relief that I no longer had to make these decisions -
that the student decided about when to use them - a little control on both
sides. So many teachers in my school liked this idea and use these now,
the students have to keep track carefully.
I am sure that there are other solutions to this problem and this is one.
It is a compromise - but it did work.
Peter Smith wrote:
I am a student teacher in Northern NY and am teaching different
classes in a K-12 situation. I have what seems like a strange question
for me to ask art teachers but I'm interested. My student teaching
experience is going very well but one situation I am not sure I have a
handle on is the control over the bathroom, drinking fountain, and
lockers. I know I have been taken advantage of by certain students,
as they took their trip to the bathroom as an oppurtunity to have a
cigarette or bother other classes with locker slams or peeking in
class windows. I believe the art room is an integral part of a childs
development and I like the relaxed atmosphere that can be created in an
art room where students are working well. I guess what i'm saying is I
want to be able to let students go get a drink or go to the bathroom
but hate being taken advantage of by those couple of students. Why
restrict everyone for what a couple of students are doing. Maybe I'm
just a softee and this is not a big deal but I think that being able
to go to the bathroom is just one more freedom that helps create the
open atmosphere necisary for creative thought and art production.
So if anyone has any creative solutions poor use of bathroom priveleges
I would love to hear about them.
Peter "The Bear" Smith