Some of you might be horrified when you read this.
Any teachers and Moms out there will probably nod their head and chuckle a little bit.
I just thought I’d let you all in on a “moment” that I had with my students today.
We learned that teachers have feelings. We learned about apologizing to six year olds. We learned about forgiveness. We learned about lying and about trust. We learned all this because I lost my temper.
I arrive at work a little bit early on Wednesdays- for lunch time. As soon as I get to school, I pick up the kids and supervise them at lunch. As soon as I get there, one young boy, J, says
Miss Suzanne, I have to go to bathroom SOOOOOOO bad (insert crazy potty dance here)
I know the routine for the students, and I know that they go to the restroom as a class RIGHT before they get to lunch, so I said no. Mean, right? But I knew that he didn’t have to go. (Insert all the teachers beginning to chuckle here).
As soon as I said no, he asked several more times, with his potty dances getting far more exaggerated. Each time I said no. I’m a big meanie, what can I say?
Right after lunch, we headed downstairs and I had every intention of sending this particular student to the restroom. I even remembered up until I put the movie into the DVD player, but forgot when I was getting the students settled into watching the movie.
Apparently J also forgot that he had to go to the bathroom SOOOO bad because he stopped asking me. I didn’t hear a peep from him about the bathroom the whole movie.
(I understand that sometimes children do have to go to the bathroom at inopportune times. I also understand that children sometimes forget that they have to go to the bathroom until it is too late. Trust me, I do know that. But at this point it was just teacher intuition that told me that he didn’t actually need to go.)
After our movie, we all headed to the bathroom. Our routine is to go to the bathroom in groups, and each students has to try to use the restroom. This is their chance to use the restroom. We don’t have a lot of time in our schedule to send individual children to the restroom non-stop.
We finish with our restroom break and head out to the playground. As soon as we get to the playground, J runs up to me and says
Miss Suzanne! I have to go to the bathroom SOOOOOOOO bad.
Na-uh. No way. The frustration is welling up in me. We literally walked from the restroom to the playground…not more than 5 minutes.
I said no. Again. He whined for a few minutes and then headed back to tag with his friends. We then went to snack where the whining commenced during waiting periods and ended when he was enjoying a s’more and talking to his friends.
After snack is rest time. Rest time is the most dreaded time of day for my students because heaven forbid they actually have to sit still for 30 minutes. None of them are required to nap, but they have to sit at their desks and be quiet. I often give them books to “read”, but many struggle with sitting still/quiet for the whole 30 minutes. As soon as we get downstairs for rest time, I tell J to take the bathroom pass and go use the restroom (see? I’m not THAT mean!). J takes 15 minutes in the bathroom. As soon as he arrives back at the classroom, I inform him that since he missed 15 minutes of rest time, he will have to stay at his desk for 10 extra minutes.
And here is where the real part of the story comes in.
As soon as J gets back from the bathroom, four children JUMP out of their seats and say:
Miss Suzanne! I have to go to the bathroom SOOOO bad!
Now, at this point it’s either something in the water or “smart” kids trying to get out of rest time. Hmmmm.
I say no.
The whining continues…from four different students. (I have to go SOOO bad. PLEEASSEEE? I HAVE to go so bad! PLEASSSE. I REALLY HAVE TO GO!)
I say no.
The whining continues. The potty dances get more and more intense, and louder and louder and louder. Remember how we are at silent time here???
Finally, I get more and more and more and more frustrated.
Then I snapped.
I jumped up and turned on the lights and yelled:
THIS IS INSANE! THERE IS NO WAY YOU ALL HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!
The students that were actually resting staried at me with groggy, shocked eyes, blinking in the bright lights. The potty dancers froze.
Everybody line up at the door without saying a word. We are all going to the restroom, and when we get back…rest time starts over again.
Yes, my friends. I did yell. I did tell them this, and punished them with the very event that they were trying so hard to get out of.
But let me tell you…they lined up quietly without a peep. We all went to the restroom, where I informed my potty dancers that I would be checking their toilets to see if they actually went. Three out of the four stared at me with bug eyes and pronounced that suddenly they really didn’t have to go “that bad”.
We filed back to the classroom and resumed rest time, much quieter this time and without any interruptions.
After rest time, I gathered all my students on the carpet and we had a chit-chat about feelings.
Me: Do you ever feel angry?
Me: Sometimes teachers feel angry, too. And I felt angry earlier so I yelled at you. I am sorry for yelling, will you please forgive me?
Students: Of course, Miss Suzanne (I love my job at moments like that!)
Me: But here is a question for you. Have you ever had a friend lie to you?
Students: Yes! (insert stories about friends lying)
Me: How does that make you feel?
Students: Sad, mad, hurt, like we don’t want to be friends
Me: Well, when you tell me that you have to go to the bathroom, but you really don’t…that is lying to me. And it does not make me feel good.
Student: But Miss Suzanne! What if we do have to go to the bathroom?
Me: Well, that is a great point! Let’s remember to only ask to go to the bathroom when we have to go. Otherwise, Miss Suzanne does not know if you are lying or telling the truth! I want to trust you.
Student: Miss Suzanne, what is trust?
Me: Trust is when you can always believe what that person says. Trust is when I know you are not lying about anything.
And there have it. A real moment in the life of a teacher.