Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: The "Pee" Problem and the Domino Effect

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: I would like to respond to "Open to Suggestions in California." I am a teacher who also has experienced the "pee" problem and the domino effect.

I now allow my students to go to the restroom as soon as they enter my class. With the exception of special circumstances (I have a diabetic student), I do not allow students out of class once the lesson has begun.

Our students have only three minutes between classes, and I realize this is not enough time to hit the lockers as well as the restrooms. I would much rather spend a couple of extra minutes in the hall monitoring my students than be constantly interrupted in the classroom. I use the time to take the roll, sign excuses and other beginning-of-class business. I also allow the students who ride the bus home to go to the restroom the last five minutes of our last class. Everything flows much better now. -- Theresa in Louisiana

Dear Theresa: Bless all the teachers who wrote with suggestions. Here's a small sampling:

From Modesto, California: As a junior high teacher of 20 years, I inform students that they can have two potty passes per quarter. The time out of class is limited to two minutes. If they go over the allotted time, they will owe me the time after school.

New Mexico: The best thing our school has done is unlock the restrooms only during the three minutes between classes. This forces students to think about what is most important during that time and plan ahead. If a student is doing "the dance" in class, of course I let him go, but they know I'm going to lecture them on planning better use of their time between classes. You'd be amazed how well this works.

Shaker Heights, Ohio: In addition to a recess and lunch break, we had an emergency sign-up sheet that children could use twice a week -- no questions asked.

Texas: I would allow one child at a time to leave the room IF he or she would agree to come in after school and make up the missed time. More times than not, the student would decide not to leave my class rather than have to give up free time.


East Coast: Each time a child uses the bathroom during class time, they must put their name on the board and make up five minutes of the next scheduled recess. If a child "forgets," the time doubles for the next recess.

Riverside, California: I teach second grade. I walk the students to the restroom and drinking fountains at the beginning of their break. If there is time left, they may play on the playground. For the rest of the year, they are reminded to use the restroom before playing. At the end of each day, students who have been responsible are rewarded with a plastic nickel, which they can spend at a "store" once a trimester.

California: I'm a fifth-grade teacher. I give the students five laminated tickets. If they have to leave the classroom, they hand over one ticket. If they have to leave the room within 30 minutes after recess, they must put two tickets in the bucket. At the end of the week, students get back Lucky Bucks for each ticket they did not use. Needless to say, most students never use all their tickets.

Midwest: I teach fifth grade. If students use the bathroom during class time, they will need to pick up garbage from the school grounds after school.

Florida: I have a spiral notebook with a pencil and a clock beside it. Students are allowed to go once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Emergencies are dealt with on an individual basis. The best part of this procedure is that students do not raise their hands to ask to use the restroom. They sign out, and there is no disruption of class.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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