I have a student with Crohn’s Disease. Like for many, he needs to go to the bathroom at random times throughout the day, often, very unexpectedly. I have seen him leave as many as 5 times in a given 80 minute period. Being that my classroom is nowhere near the boys’ bathroom, he can easily miss 30 total minutes of class. In the school handbook, it says that a student must sign-in and out of class every time he/she leaves and must indicate what the reason is for leaving. This student is embarrassed by his condition, which has only been recently diagnosed. At least once a week, he will come up to me to apologize for leaving so much, concerned that my opinion of him will diminish because he is missing so much class time.
Here’s the thing about this. I don’t follow the school rules. I have no sign-out sheet by my door. If my students need to leave class, the pass is by the door. They don’t need to ask permission and they don’t stop to sign-out; they just go. There is no disruption of the lesson and there is no attention drawn to those leaving the room. If I complied with the handbook, everyone in class would see that this student is leaving class for the bathroom 5 times per day, drawing unneeded attention to a student who is already dealing with self-esteem issues from his medical condition. He does what he needs to do and when he returns to class, he gets right back to work. I didn’t create this policy for him or kids like him. I did it because in the real world, you don’t need to ask permission to go to the bathroom or to take a brain break.
We say schools are institutions of learning, but too often we deal with trying to get students to comply to the rules more than we are getting them to learn the material. Maybe we need to flip our perspective on how school is structured. What if we focused our attention on learning first, then look to see what rules still apply to make that happen smoothly? I wonder how many of our current rules would still apply.