Picking Battles in HS

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Kaley12, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Jun 11, 2014

    Example: I had a grade 9 student who use to ask to go to the bathroom at some point during the period basically every single day. When it became apparent that this was becoming a habit, I tried to nip it by talking to him about how frequently he is asking to leave for bathroom breaks and how he needs to make a habit to go at lunch (this period was in the afternoon).
    However, he became very argumentative and going on about how he can't control when he has to go and becoming quite difficult. It would be such a struggle that I figured it wasn't worth it, so if he asked during seat work, I would allow him to go (just not during instructional time, as with anyone).

    I hate the thought of not standing my ground, but at the same time I don't want to get into a power struggle on a daily basis over something that really wasn't that significant of an issue to me. He wasn't missing lessons to go, and he was never gone for more than a few minutes (I'd make sure to keep an eye on the time).

    What do you guys think about choosing battles in situations like this? Do you think it's best to always stand your ground no matter what to show that you are in charge at the end. Or is it better to keep the peace in certain situations?

    I'm a fairly new teacher and always looking for ways to fine tune my behaviour management strategies, and one thing I find the most difficult with HS students is the dreaded power struggle. Any advice is great :)
     
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  3. platypusok

    platypusok Companion

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    I'm a pick-your-battles type of person. And the bathroom issue is not one that I'm going to fight over.

    I won't let them go when I'm teaching. I won't let them go if their bff or boyfriend/girlfriend left the room. But other than that, I let them go.

    I did have an 8th grader who had to go every day in my class-but I think it was just his time to go. But he would wait until I finished teaching (most of the time) and his hand would fly up in the air.
     
  4. ScienceEd

    ScienceEd Companion

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    I enforce the one student at a time rule, no bathroom breaks 15 minutes before and after the bell, and document when they leave and return. If its for more than 5 minutes, I give them a look. I've written people up for skipping if they are gone for more than 15 minutes and they typically don't do it anymore.

    I'm still learning which battles to fight and which ones to compromise with the students upon.

    My principal said to talk to them at the beginning of the year about what makes for a good learning environment: what causes distraction and disruptions? How to help each other learn? What rules should be in place and why? etc.

    I'll have to try it next year and see how it works out.
     
  5. Rhesus

    Rhesus Comrade

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    Jun 12, 2014

    Yeah, pick your battles. there are some things not worth the expenditure of effort and stamina. As long as the kid isn't gone excessively long or anything, I'd probably let that one slide.
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I'm a pick your battle type person, but this is sometimes my downfall. In your situation, I would not allow the student to leave.
    I had a similar student, and during 6th period, which is after lunch (they had 35 minutes to eat and use the bathroom) he would ask to use the bathroom, or go up to the office to make a phone call, anything to get out of the class, but mostly it was the bathroom.
    I let him, because I felt that it's not worth to argue about, but then I realized I was sending the wrong signal: I'm willing to negotiate about the little things, I'm flexible and they can always try to persuade me.
    Some kids saw it like that.
    Finally I told him, that this was the last time he ever left my classroom for any reason, if he has a bladder problem I need a doctor's note or my P to tell me it's ok, otherwise I don't want to hear it. He still tried, but I stood my ground and he stopped after that. This is what I would do with your student.
     
  7. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    If he has a legitimate medical condition he needs a note from his doctor or parents stating so. Otherwise, it's all backtalk. If you allow "special treatment" for this student because it's not worth your time to follow through with your management plan students will think you are unfair, enforcing some rules for some student but not others. Relationship building will begin to spiral down as students disrespect you.

    Expect some heat from whiny students. They have been doing it for a long time, both at home and with other teachers. If it worked before it should work again. Don't expect them to give up without a fight.

    Both Fred Jones (Tools For Teaching) and Michael Linsin (Smart Classroom Management) take the stand teachers should never "pick your battles". They go on to list and elaborate on why and the reinforcement errors innate to the strategy, "If I ignore it will go away."
     
  8. rookieteacher:)

    rookieteacher:) Companion

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    This school year I was in a similar situation. I agree with others that my letting students go opened the can of worms that many students would want to go. I can't say yes to one and no to another.

    I am thinking about trying a policy where only 5(number is still being decided on) students can go during class. If they really have to go they will make sure they are first on that list. By the time a student is bored they will probably be too late.
     
  9. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Sometimes what works is that however long they are gone, they need to make up the time with me after school. If it is REALLY important, they will do so. It has helped to stop everyone wanting to leave the room.
     
  10. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I'm not really a pick your battles kind of teacher. That implies that rules and policies are to be bent. I'd much rather not have a rule to start if it isn't something I can enforce.

    I had a student that had to go every day, sometimes multiple times. This was at a school where students often had two hour breaks before coming to my class.

    I called home and asked his mother if he had any type of medical issue that would prevent him from staying in class and hearing instruction. She said he did not and was completely supportive when I suggested that I would not let him go for the rest of the semester.
     
  11. 2ndTimeAround

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    I will add that I had a student once that would get nervous suddenly in class. He had ADHD but wasn't one to fidget. It was as though it hit him all at once and he had to MOVE. Not every day but often enough. When I realized what was going on, I started having him run errands for me. I asked a friend if he could deliver notes to her during that period. I asked other students occasionally to deliver too. His need to leave drastically decreased.
     
  12. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Exactly: I think that rule-setting is the optimal point at which battles are to be picked.
     
  13. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I agree with Loomis and 2nd.

    Think about enacting a classroom procedure. Explain that you're doing this because bathroom use is beginning to become an issue in class, so you'll be giving them a bathroom pass good for x-number of uses this semester.

    If you need to go past that, either have a medical note, or take hits to your participation grade.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Rule setting may be the optimal time to pick a battle, but rules have to be very well thought through because they are supposed to apply to all and be consistently applied. Sometimes classroom rules actually do create battles because the rule violates nature or need. What may sound great to solve one issue may actually create others and rules with no built in exceptions can be a problem. A built in exception would be having a student provided with a few bathroom passes a quarter.

    Here is a situation that happened in our school which is large. The passing time is tight for good reason, but it makes for problems with bathroom use. To get from one side of the school to another AND use the bathroom is near impossible. The idea is most students don't have to go from one side of the school to the other. However, one student had early lunch. The 2nd class after lunch the student always wanted to go to the bathroom. The 2 passes were used up within the first 2 weeks. It turned out that the student had to go by the end of the class after lunch (which is rather normal to have to go after an hour or so after lunch), but the student had to go all the way across the school to get from the class after lunch to the class after that. The choice was to potentially be late for class every other day or to go to class on time and have to go to the bathroom during class time. Since the school rule is the first and last 10 minutes of class you can't go to the restroom, it made things difficult. To make a blanket rule about bathroom use with no exception can cause a problem.

    Granted, some students do use it for no good, but I am discussing the no exception idea and picking the battle at rule making time. It isn't as clear as we would like it all the time when dealing with students and schedules and human nature.
     
  15. Linzi

    Linzi Rookie

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    I know the question wasn't specifically about bathroom use, but I got a good tip from a workshop, and thought I'd share it here since it's worked so well for me.

    I print out a sheet with little icons on them and each student gets a strip of 6 "tickets" to leave the room for water or bathroom. They get a new strip of tickets each grading period. Basically it's giving them a ticket per week to be used whenever they would like- a generous amount. When they want to use the bathroom they tear off a ticket and give it to me, and I give them the pass. I explain to them that these are their tickets out of the room and they need to be used responsibly. Once they go over their allotted amount, they can still use the bathroom, but they have to trade a bathroom trip for a 10-minute detention to be served either during lunch or after school. This system has made it a lot easier for me to be consistent. No one goes while I'm teaching, and only one person leaves the room at a time. I never have to feel like I'm singling a kid out by telling them they can't use the bathroom. It's a simple, "you can go but it's up to you if it's worth 10 minutes of YOUR time." Most kids don't ever use them all, and I didn't have a problem anybody trying to use the bathroom to escape this semester :)

    I have had students with doctors notes and I just let them know to the side that they will get extra tickets as needed, but they still need to turn in the ticket like anyone else.
     
  16. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    There are also ways to build in exceptions into the rule without watering down your rules.

    i.e. I mentioned losing participation points after a certain amount of passes are used up. Someone mentioned serving a 10 minute detention. If a student tells me they really need to go to the rest room and they don't have a pass or their pass is used up, I tell them to call the office and ask for permission to use the restroom because I can't give them the go ahead because our bathroom policy is school-wide.

    Those that really need to go will make the call. Those who just want to waste time will give up. If it's a recurring problem, you can have a parent write you a note to excuse said student. These things should probably be thought about while you're writing your rules, but you're probably not going to catch every single circumstance the first time, so just build as you go.
     
  17. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    The examples you cite from others really isn't fair to the student I explained. Why should a student have to loose participation points or suffer detention because the schedule made up by the school puts the child in a precarious position.

    I understand that you have decided to not stretch the rules of your school's bathroom policy (not sure if you follow all of the schools rules and policies with such vigor), but the point that the exceptions cited are fair for this student wouldn't seem accurate to the student or the parent of the student. She didn't have a medical issue. She had a school created time constraint. Granted, in your school she would probably have to see administration and have them walk her schedule to prove her point. In our school the administration would probably support the teacher if the student had 1 minute to spare. 1 minute is not sufficient to use the restroom for girls at all times, especially if you get there and the stalls are filled.

    No rule lends itself to all situations. Sometime exceptions just have to be made.
     
  18. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Pick your battles wisely is my mantra.

    Never fight a battle with a child you can't win. ESPECIALLY if you can't enforce a punishment.
    And, ESPECIALLY if Admin won't back you up.
     
  19. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    Several years ago, I had a student who had behavioral problems (I teach sped mild.) Everyday he would come in and talk about having to pee, etc. and whine about it. (He was 15.)I couldn't let him go to the restroom alone without standing outside the room. It was getting annoying. Anyway, I asked my admin for a suggestion and was told that I needed to let all students go even though it took at least 10 minutes out of my class time. (His whining was taking that long anyway.) The other students didn't have to go so we would all stand in the hallway (about 8 kids) while this student used the bathroom. We did that for about a week and then I began to wean off about. Incidentally when I would ask for help with this student I was told to deal with it. When his behaviors began to show in all his other classes as well as the hallways, something was done and he was sent to a behavioral class.
     
  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Our students get 10 passes a quarter. This amounts to 40 a year. If there is some problem that is causing the student to consistently use up their bathroom passes, then they need to get their parents to write them a note, or they need to seriously think about the usage of their break time. We get both lunch and brunch. Lunch for us is fairly close to the end of the day as well, so I understand that our circumstances may simply be different. Our school is not very large spatially either, and we have a lot of bathrooms, so it's fairly simple for student to make use of the rest room during passing periods.

    Rather than exceptions being made to the rules, it is more effective to plan for these contingencies (i.e. award more bathroom passes, work with the admin to increase passing period or change her classes so that she doesn't have to walk as far, etc.) so you can keep exceptions to a minimum. Though exceptions will in all likelihood still be required in special cases.
     
  21. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Also, what do you do if you tell a child "no" but that they can call the office and the office does not back up your "no" decision?

    Do you let every child call the office when you need back up in enforcing school wide rules?
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Why would I say "no" and then tell them to call the office? If I say, no, that means no.

    What I tell them is that our school policy dictates that in order to use the restroom you need to have a bathroom pass. If you don't have one, and you feel that it is an emergency, you need to contact the office and have them give you permission to go. I cannot.

    This gets me around the circumstance if it really is an emergency, but still allows me to hold them to the bathroom policy. As a2z said, there needs to be some wiggle room for exceptions. But you have to keep the wiggle room tight, in my philosophy.

    The student calls the office, explains the situation, the student gives me the phone, the office gives me the go ahead, and they go.

    Most students want to avoid calling the office at all costs and avoid the back and forth. If they don't really need to go, they will refuse to call. If they really need to go, they will make the call.

    If it happens too frequently that they want to call the office (hasn't happened yet) then I will conference with their parent and explain the situation. We will come to a solution then.
     
  23. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    The bathroom thing is just not a hill I'm willing to die on. Our kids get three minutes during passing periods. The bathroom is all the way across the building, so most can't go in between periods. I will either say yes or ask if they can wait five minutes. If they say no, I let them go. We had a student nearly walk out on a teacher who wouldn't let him go when he desperately had to go. I don't want to be in that situation.

    Our admin is amazing, but it's just our P, so he's very busy! The bathroom is never something I'd bother him about unless it's a specific student who's not allowed out without notifying our him.

    Peregrin, does your school have trouble with bathrooms? I've known some schools where bathrooms are locked except at certain times due to gang-related issues. Thankfully we don't have any go that where I am now.

    Our kids' passes are limited I suppose but they get 60+ per quarter. I've never seen anyone run out.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
  24. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I realize yesterday was Friday the 13th/Full Moon/Solar Flare day, but all this snipping is quite unnecessary. Different schools have different policies. The individual teachers cannot control those policies. If you think a policy is stupid, that's fine, but it's not okay to bash the teacher who enforces those policies. Nor is any other type of direct attack against other forum members acceptable.

    I have now moderated over 30 posts in less than 24 hours. Those are just the posts I have moderated. There are other mods. This is far past any semblance of acceptable. There has already been at least one member put on a temporary gag. Please don't make me do it again. It's not fun.
     
  25. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    We have three office staff, plus two office aides each period, in addition to our principal and VP, so it's not a real drain to do it. In addition, I probably only have a student decide to call perhaps twice a quarter in total from all of my classes.

    We don't have too much trouble with bathrooms, but the potential is always there, and the kids in our age group would take the chance to waste instructional time by hanging out in the bathroom or do worse. I've pulled all of the bathroom passes from a student who was wasting time in the bathroom, staying in there for more than 20 minutes to get out of instruction.

    I don't want to get in the situation where a student just walks out as well, which is why I offer them the option to contact the office. It works for our school and our kids. If it gets to be a problem, we'd change it.

    But we do want the coherency of the school as a whole and the feeling that all of the teachers take the rules seriously, so I feel it's important to do my part in upholding the school policy. In addition, it's good for the student and the rest of the class, as more time is spent on instruction, and we have very few bathroom related distractions.
     
  26. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    That's very interesting. We don't have many problems with our policy, which is probably why it's so lax. We are a very tiny school. I've only had one student gone for a long time, and it turned out he was sick. I did notify our secretary who had our P go and find him.

    We did have some graffiti trouble towards the end of the year. Those individual students' passes were limited.

    I find it so interesting that there are so many different policies on something that seems so simple. We have a teacher who would like us to not deal with passes at all and just have the kids go when they need to in order to give them more responsibility. I'm not a big fan of that plan.
     
  27. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I see.

    I don't think I teach a population of kids were having them call the office would be a good idea. Ever. And I know, my Admin would see this as me not being able handle my business. I've never taught in a school where this would be ok.

    Glad it works for you.
     
  28. 12Souza

    12Souza Rookie

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    This has always been kind of a stupid thing to fret over. The only reason 1 teacher follow it is because it is status quo with no real purpose. They have to use the restroom, a fundamental function of our bodies that can cause harm to their bodies if not tended to.

    Let them go, one at a time with permission and a sign out sheet, but do not stop instruction for them. If they are falling behind in your class then you can call the parents and you have the signout sheet as a record.

    I shall add: its our job to facilitate a positive learning environment, so unless it affects that learning environment, I repeat: let them go
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  29. GeetGeet

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    I relate to this. I figure that as long as the student is doing their work, acting respectfully to me, and is generally behaving responsibly, I will let them go to the bathroom even if it is every day (as long as they aren't gone for more than a few minutes). When I was a student, I just couldn't sit still for a whole class sometimes. I did all the work and really cared about what I was learning. I just needed to move. I appreciated it when a teacher saw that I was not trying to pull something--I just couldn't sit still that long. So I look at this issue from that perspective. If a kid is gone for more than 5 minutes, they get a look and a comment from me. If it happens often I will not let them go anymore.
     
  30. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    It's not a stupid thing to fret over when your admin comes down on you for allowing too many students to leave class and when those students are not leaving for legitimate reasons but to behave inappropriately without supervision.

    At my school the school-wide bathroom policy is more than just the status quo. It has a very real purpose, mainly student safety.
     
  31. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Agreed, Caesar. There was a period when our bathrooms/hallways were shut down because of vandalism and fire alarms being set off. Students got their act together and it stopped. Then we were able to resume our normal bathroom policies.
     

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