I was prompted to write this post after reading a comment on the facebook thread of an acquaintance. The original post linked to a very good article about public behavior charts in schools, and pointed out the myriad of problems with these. Several people commented on the thread and one poster wrote that at her child's school a teacher used to write the name on the blackboard of any child who asked to go to the toilet during a lesson. Those children with their names on the board then had to stay behind during their recess or lunch break, one minute for each time they asked to use the toilet.
That's right, they were punished for needing to use the toilet!!!
I was both shocked and outraged (and then even more so, by the lack of others seemingly finding this outrageous). So then I wondered if this was common practice in schools, or just the draconian tactics used by one teacher. I did a Google search, and it seems this is a thing; a strategy used by some (not all) schools and teachers to discourage children who are 'faking it' to get out of class for a few minutes. In many schools and classrooms, children are given 'bad beans' if they ask to go to the toilet. So needing to use the toilet during lessons means you are bad?
It seems to ignore the obvious, that in an attempt to discourage and punish the so called wrong doers, children who need to exercise their normal bodily functions are being labeled bad and naughty. I guess these children are just collateral damage, or perhaps not. From reading many of the comments, it appears that many adults feel that children should use their recess and lunch breaks to go to the toilet, and of course couldn't possibly then need to use the toilet in the next 90 minutes. And if children get caught up in their games and forget to go to the loo (and they wouldn't want to risk being late as I'm sure that is met with punishment); or if they just don't want to lose any of their precious (and ever decreasing) play time; then they are punished.
But maybe you don't think it sounds that bad. If not, read on.
But perhaps, you are somewhat to blame as you were so busy talking with a whole bunch of people
during the lunch break, brainstorming about this great project you are planning to work on together, that you forgot to go to the toilet. So maybe you deserve that humiliation and the bad bean...not
Okay, well how about the training session has the worlds worst facilitator. They are droning on and on about something you're not really that interested in and in you didn't want to attend this session anyway, you have far more important work to do back at the office. You think that you are about to fall asleep, so decide to nip out to the loo to wake yourself up and quickly check your work emails. Surely now you think you must deserve that humiliation?
Truth is, no one deserves that humiliation; and adults wouldn't dream of acting this way towards another adult. So why are we treating children like this? If a child needs to go to the toilet, they must be allowed. If children are regularly using a toilet break to get out of class, perhaps we need to look a little deeper at why this is? Classrooms should be dynamic, engaging, exciting places that children WANT to be in. If they are trying to get a break from them, then something is going wrong in that learning environment. If I was facilitating a session that participants were using toilet breaks to get out of, I would want to know about it, and would be 100% confident that I needed to up my game.
Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states:
(2) States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.
I'll leave it to you to form your own opinion as to whether issuing bad beans for toilet breaks is consistent with maintaining a child's human dignity.