Bathroom breaks, whether in a group lesson, a classroom or in a one on one session with a student can throw many music teachers off their plan. In order to get through a lesson, follow up a plan, one has to have a sort of a strategy. Some teachers have strict rules, not allowing trips to the bathroom unless they have received a note either from the parents or they themselves realise that the student is not bluffing and really has to go. Others have devised certain tactics either to train the students not to go to the bathroom, or to make the process as hard as possible.
Offer for the student to use the bathroom before the lesson
Whether you are working in a classroom or you are giving a private lesson, the time before the lesson starts is the best to get the bathroom break out of the way. Make sure you point out to your students that the time before the lesson starts is the best time to get their “bathroom needs” out of the way. If you are teaching in a school, when students are lining up outside the classroom notify them that no bathroom breaks will be allowed during after the bell rings and if anyone needs to go, they should do it now.
Bathroom pass (for school classroom environments)
For those teachers working in a school, a “bathroom pass” could be a great way of making students think about going to the bathroom after the lesson starts. Usually, making them work for your permission to leave the classroom will discourage them from the idea. Also, it gives you an overview of the student’s behaviour. If visits are frequent or happen during certain hours, there might be a pattern. With new technology and the use of smartphones, students can easily coordinate a “bathroom meet up” giving them a chance to chat while skipping work. Having some sort of a tracking system in place within a school could help teachers spot such “bathroom meets.”
Consider medical reasons if a student uses that bathroom too much
Some students may have medical conditions that effect their bladder. While some might provide a valid explanation and describe their condition, others might be unaware of the problem. If you encounter students that fall into this second category, make sure to ask the student, or the parents whether they have been to the doctor for a check-up. The positive of such an approach could push the student to be more aware of the problem and heed to your advice to use the restroom during lunch or other breaks.
Set some ground rules
As with a lesson plan, if you are looking to get your students to stop frequently using the bathroom, set some rules that have to be followed. Students will realize that during certain periods, like 10 or 15 minutes after the lesson started or the latter part of the class when the class is about to end, there should be no requests to go to the bathroom. Even if a student does ask to go to the bathroom, and shows no obvious signs that they really need to go to the bathroom, ask questions like: “Do you have to go now? Can’t you hold it for a few more minutes?” Very often the students say they don’t actually need to go and that they can wait a few minutes.
If you are on the lenient side, at least have a system that will cause the least interruptions to the lesson flow. For group classroom enviornments, allow only one student to go to the bathroom at a time, limit their absence from class, because in the end, over 90 percent of the students asking to go to the bathroom actually just want to go for a walk, stretch their legs a bit and escape having to do a task you might be doing at that moment.
Having a stricter policy, like no bathroom breaks allowed, unless there is a medical condition, can pay dividends to teachers that are looking to conduct a lesson from start to end without interruptions. With all the tips listed above, students will always try to find a way around them, however, if you clearly state that no trips to the bathroom will be allowed during the lesson, they might start to change their behaviour. Knowing before they come to your class that the will not be granted a permission to leave the class, they will start getting their bathroom needs out of the way prior to coming to your class.
Bathroom breaks have and always will be an issue for many, but setting some rules and procedures will enable you to conduct your lessons without too many interruptions. After a while, the students will get used to the rules you set forth and start respecting them. While it might take time, make sure you devise a plan that works both for you and your students.