Zen and the Art of Going to the Lavatory

May 30, 2018

There was a lot of controversy on Twitter this weekend after one troll who works at an expensive private school overseas boasted that they let their students “go to the bathroom” whenever they wanted. A teacher at a state secondary ended up in a Twitter storm for pointing out why this is not allowed in their school. A lot of what followed was just the usual teacher-bashing and trolling you get on edutwitter from people who would never work in a tough school. But some non-teachers genuinely didn’t understand what the issue is. I said I’d write a post explaining, only to remember I wrote this one ten years ago. I’ve added some updated remarks at the end.

Scenes From The Battleground

“How lucky you English are to find the toilet so amusing. For us, it is a mundane and functional item. For you, the basis of an entire culture.”

Von Richthoven (Adrian Edmondson), Blackadder Goes Forth, 1989

Simple, insignificant things become complicated at tough schools. You are constantly supervising dozens of students who have no social or moral restraint when it comes to causing harm to others or thwarting the purposes of the school. Something as insignificant as allowing a student out of the classroom to go to the toilet becomes a potential threat to learning which has to be evaluated, dealt with and, more often than not, justified.

There are several reasons why teachers can’t just let students answer the call of nature:

  • There is often a problem of internal truancy. Students who should be in lessons stay in the corridors. Sometimes they play games or attempt to intimidate passers-by…

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