Creative School Restroom Rules

I’ve learned that school restrooms have become the new hot spots in schools. Students congregate there to avoid the classroom discussions on semi-colons and essay formulas, or having to do algebra equations. Spending time in the midst of a room populated with urinals and stalls seems more appealing. Weird, I know, but not too far removed from the truth.

Back in my growing up days at Ironton High School, we had a group of students who would congregate in a small area outside the gym to grab a cigarette between classes. Smoking was allowed back in those days outside the building. It’s where smokers went and others avoided. Since I never smoked, I didn’t hang out there. My guess, however, is that the conversations did not revolve around the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 or slope triangle calculations.

In our middle school, with there being security cameras in the hallways, gym, cafeteria, and outside areas, restrooms are the new uncharted territories. Schools still see them as spaces deserving privacy, rightfully so. Unfortunately, they attract lunacy. Stupid things happen inside the door. It could be the studio for a spinoff show of that TV series “Jackass.”

I’ve tried different things in the past to separate the urgent from the unnecessary. For a while, I had two Beanie Babies, one for each gender. A boy signed out and took Roam the bison with him to the restroom. Girls had a penguin called Waddles. That worked for a while, until Roam came back wet one day. I didn’t want to know how he got that way. After that, I had the designated Beanie Baby placed on the restrooming student’s desk.

And then the school went to restroom passes on lanyards. I took Roam and Waddles back home to safer surroundings with their old Beanie friends.

Since a no-cell phone policy went into effect in January, students can’t text their friends about this, that, and the other useless informational things. BUT there’s the restrooms! A little hallway conversation during the four-minute passing period is a good time to arrange a mid-class rendezvous in “Stall Town.”

So now I’m thinking outside the box about the situation. Last week I went back to 6th-Grade passes, where a student gets a limited number of restroom passes for the rest of our quarter, and only one student is allowed at a time. We still have the classroom sign-out sheet, plus the restroom lanyard, and now the individual signed sheet.

But I’m not sure that’s enough, so a friend of mine and her eighth-grade daughter gave me some new creative ideas. They suggested that I have a full-size cardboard cutout of myself made. I’d need to get the school administration to sign off on the idea, but what a great way to separate those who really need to go from those who just want to avoid being educated. I can envision someone coming into the restroom and seeing two other strange-looking feet inside one of the stalls, and maybe make my cut-out tall enough that part of me is also above the stall.

My friend also suggested a front and a back. That is, for someone’s first visit of the day, my cutout is of my back, not paying attention to “their business”, but if it’s a second visit for the day, have my other cutout facing them. Awkward! Maybe even have my cutout having my hands on my hips and looking disgusted at the student. The problem is my cutout would probably have something unfortunate done to it about three days in. I’d lose a limb, have someone draw sunglasses on my fake face, or give me tattoos and piercings.

Another thought is to go back to what we did when I was in elementary school. The whole class lined up in the hallway and we took a few minutes to take a restroom break…as a class. I’m sure that would go over well with eighth-graders who would have to stand there quietly…without their cell phones.

Another idea is to have some kind of hand attached to the lanyard. It could be in collaboration with the art classes! Maybe a laminated hand. When the student comes back to the classroom, I would ask him if he washed his hands…all three of them?

Here’s the challenge! Students are deceivingly creative. The educator’s creativity is matched with their dark humor. It’s like a chess match without the board. One move gets countered by the new plunge into tainted behavior. I guess the encouraging thing is that they’re thinking, organizing, planning, and developing new strategies. It’s definitely a new education for this old guy. It makes me long for the days of the old smoking area outside Ironton High School.

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