Help! Our Principal is Canceling Bathroom Breaks

Bathrooms will be locked during class, and teachers have to monitor bathroom usage between classes. This is ridiculous!

Illustration of cancelled bathroom breaks at a school

Dear WeAreTeachers,
We’ve had big problems with vandalism and vaping in student bathrooms this past school year. We have two weeks left of school, and our principal announced that next year, students will not be allowed to go to the bathroom during class; only during the five-minute passing period that will now be increased to—are you ready for it?—six minutes. Teachers will be expected to monitor bathrooms, sign students in and out, and unlock and re-lock the bathrooms. The myriad of ways in which this plan will backfire was instantly obvious to every teacher in the room, but I was shocked that no one said anything! Do I talk to my principal or go to someone else? —This Plan is Sh*t

Dear T.P.I.S.,

Oh, this sweet summer principal.

Between bodies that don’t follow schedules (all of ours?), teenagers who menstruate, sudden illnesses related to the digestive system, and other things that are common sense/human rights, this is a terrible plan.

Would you like to know why the teachers in the room didn’t say anything? They knew this plan would last about five seconds once parents found out about it. The lawsuits will roll down like a mighty river.


Bathroom vandalism is a huge problem for secondary schools, but policing bodies (and wasting teachers’ time) isn’t the answer. If you want to talk to your principal about it, offer to head up a committee for solutions that takes teacher suggestions into consideration.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I’m a first year teacher. I just graded my final exams and am panicking. 60% of my students failed, and another 20% made a C. I know this is going to reflect poorly on me when my principal finds out. But I also know that my directions and study materials were crystal-clear! Should I just put in the grades and cross my fingers that my principal doesn’t check my scores? —First-Year Failures

Dear F.Y.F.,

First of all, don’t panic. If the first time your students bomb an assessment is at the end of the year, I would say you’re a pretty great teacher!

A good habit to be in is disaggregating the data of an assessment. First, look at the spread of responses for each question for patterns. Did most of the class miss the same few questions? That can tell you about a specific skill weakness (or a weak question). Are the majority of incorrect answers at the end of an exam? That might show you they were rushed for time.

Still stuck after looking at responses? Go to a teacher on your team or your department chair. Show them the study materials and the exam and ask for their honest feedback. The teacher will probably have a good sense of your school’s procedures for this kind of thing. Additionally, they can help you determine where your students (or you) went wrong.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
Every spring, the other three sixth-grade teachers and I get together to determine which NJHS applicants meet the behavioral criteria (the academic criteria is predetermined). Our NJHS sponsor then sends acceptance/rejection letters home. Next comes the part I dread: the complaints from parents demanding to know why their child didn’t get in. Our principal makes us sit down with parents for an in-person conversation (we’ve tried to ask if we can email instead, but it’s a hard no). It’s a waste of our time and so awkward to have to explain we found their child’s character lacking. Surely there’s a solution here so we don’t have to do this song and dance every spring? —NJHSuffering

Dear NJHSuffering,

Oh, I know this one! *raise hand and squeals excitedly*

You do these things:

  • Send home information at the beginning of the school year in sixth grade that includes any criteria used in determining NJHS eligibility. Have it be one of the five billion things parents have to sign that they’ve received.
  • Next, hold an NHJS informational meeting (virtual or in-person) for any interested parents in the fall, and make sure the acceptance criteria and decision-making process is clearly communicated.
  • Finally, when you sit down to do your meeting, record why each student was rejected and determine which official NJHS criteria it links to. With any rejection letter, send the criteria (verbatim from the official criteria, not any anecdotes) used to reject their membership, concrete ways to improve, and encourage them to apply at the next available opportunity.

I think this transparency will dramatically cut down on the number of parents who request meetings and will hopefully make the spring semester a more positive time for everyone.

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Dear WeAreTeachers,
Now that it’s getting much sunnier outside, a student’s parent emailed requesting that I apply sunscreen to her second grader’s arms, face, and neck before he goes outside to recess. When I gently explained that at this age, children are both welcome to bring and expected to apply their own sunscreen, she sent this email: “I think there might be some confusion. I’m asking you to apply sunscreen so his skin doesn’t burn, not turn your classroom upside down … this takes 30 seconds, tops. Ms. (last year’s teacher) did this last year with no issues. Let me know if I need to get an administrator involved in order for you to do a very simple request.” I mean … what?! —Absolutely Not

This week on Ask WeAreTeachers, we cover bathroom breaks, final exam failures, and how to cut down on parent meetings.