Decide Your Rule—State Your RuleAs teachers, we set the mood/tone/vibe of the class. Yes, indeed, we set the rules. I have found most all of us feel entirely confident setting almost every single rule except the bathroom rule. Why? Because it feels precarious. If we set the rule that there are no bathroom breaks then, inevitably, there will be an accident. If we set the rule that there can be bathroom breaks then, inevitably, everyone will be using the bathroom all the time (and there will probably be an accident anyway). Ultimately, we have to set the rule though. We must address the issue with our students, otherwise they have no idea what the expectation is. So, decide your rule and then state your rule to your class. Here is my rule:
No one is ever allowed to leave the ballet studio during ballet class. Ever.”I then add:
If there is an emergency, like your ears are falling off, then you must raise your hand and ask if you can leave to put your ears back on. I will then tell you ‘yes, you may leave’ or ‘no, you may not leave.’ But I will probably let you leave because I definitely want you to have ears.”(Yes, I realize this is absolute nonsense. But it gets their attention and it also gets my point across.) After I state my rule they will obviously ask, “What if we have to use the bathroom?” To this I say, “Well, like I said, if there is an emergency you must raise your hand and ask.” From there, I move into asking them what they can do to make bathroom emergencies happen less. They all know the answer to this: use the bathroom before class. I review my rule every week at the start of class.
I Break My Rule. . . A Lot.Yes, yes. I know. Don’t set a rule unless you can follow through with it. But, for real, I will do almost anything to keep those accidents from happening, so I break the rule often. However, I do it with purpose. When someone asks to use the bathroom the following scenario takes place:
*student raises hand*
“I need to use the bathroom.”
“I know you remember my rule so I know this must be an emergency. But I would like you to do this next dance with us. If you still need to use the bathroom after this dance, then you may.”From there I observe their body language. After years of teaching I can tell when a kid actually needs to use the bathroom. If those signs are there, I will excuse them after that dance to the bathroom. If the signs are not there, I will ignore the bathroom request and continue on. Most often, the dancer forgets all about the bathroom and we finish class. If I do excuse the dancer to the bathroom I always follow up when they return with my rule. I remind everyone what the rule is, when it can be broken, and how we can avoid having to break it.
When In Doubt, Let Them Go.For so many reasons it is the absolute worst when a kid has an accident. Whenever I am in doubt, I always let them go, and I don’t make them feel bad about it. The last thing I want is for a student to feel so scared of breaking my rule that they suffer and possibly end up in a wet mess. The mess can be avoided. Almost every single time. But I do believe in teaching them that leaving the dance studio is never ideal and we must do our best to take care of such things before entering the class (even if it means being a few minutes late). On the flipside, it is also important to teach our students how to handle themselves when they do have an emergency in class because this will happen to them. I can’t think of one advanced student in my entire teaching career that did not have to leave the studio at some point due to some type of bathroom emergency. To sum up:
- Make the rule.
- State the rule.
- Teach them how to keep the rule.
- Teach them how to break the rule (rules were made to be broken anyway, right?).
- Dealing with Attitudes
- How Friendly Should We Be?
- Addressing Parents
- 20 Ways to Create a Comfortable Class