Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Potty Passes

Going back about fifteen years ago, I wrote a pass for a student that said something like "Taylor's pass to wander the wherevers, whenevers, whatevers, and whoevers of the world." It was just a silly pass for no other reason than that kind of behavior sometimes happens when you teach middle school. The kids get in your blood. Part tongue-in-cheek and part Poohean, Taylor took the pass (after we had a good chuckle over it) and went to her locker or visited a teacher or whatever she had to do.

And she came back, by the way. The pass system worked once again. We haven't lost one child yet by writing passes.

Near Taylor's high school graduation, I received a nice card from her, reminding me of that pass written when she was in 8th grade. She kept it.

I got thinking about that pass (and passes in general) today as I wrote pass after pass after pass during our end of the day study hall period.  On a whim, to break up the monotony, a boy asked for a pass for the bathroom, so I wrote "potty" instead of bathroom. He got a big laugh out of it.

I don't know why I did it. Part of it, as I reflect now, is that the pass system fascinates me...and part of it is that I kind of think it is just silly in some situations.

It has been years since I have used a standard pass--a common plastic item, etc. In other words, I don't want that same thing visiting the bathroom 50 times a day.

And I love when I write a paper pass to the bathroom and the kid wants to hand it back to me when he's done.

Would you like to inject me with the plague, too?

Over the years, I've seen teachers use blocks of wood, football helmets, along with any number of odd objects as their hall pass. Some teachers bought plastic, color-coded passes that kids can wear like an ID badge. And by the way, how hygienic is it to send the same pass off to the bathroom a few dozen times a day--anyone disinfecting their bathroom passes out there?

All in the name of student management, I guess.

My fascination is not in the code of ethics or a debate on student safety, but in the trust we all cultivate in something as innocuous as a pass. Somehow that little slip of paper or plastic sleeve serves as an effective dog collar and leash. It's amazing, quite honestly.

Even for something as incredibly necessary as going to the bathroom, kids still raise their hand to ask for permission to the bathroom. I forget what that feels like. I mean, at what point in the process does the inner radar go off? Because you have to account for how long the teacher might take to get to you, and then there is the writing of the pass, and then the walk to the bathroom which could be a bit of a hike.

Look, I get it, I get the whole pass system is the glue keeping the kids from running loose all over the building (again, that is incredible when you sit back and think about it).  But, back to the bathroom, our kids don't ask the waitresses for permission to go to the bathroom at Appleby' a matter of fact, I can't think of any one place on earth where one has to ask permission to go to the bathroom. I'd love to see a world where we could have this unspoken agreement about the potty with teenagers. If you have to go (I know you won't abuse the freedom) just go...well, get up, leave the room, and then find the bathroom, but you get it. You don't have to ask permission or wait for me...I trust you! I get it.  Go! You're coming back, I believe you, I know, because some things even teenagers just don't mess with.

Nature isn't waiting for any of us or our passes.


  1. Thank you for having great perspective on the potty pass! It's true - the only place we ask to go is at school. I send my kids all the time.. there's a path from the resource room to the potty. Usually they just need a stretch. Learning is tough work.

  2. Love the picture on your post! I'm so glad you have students who return! I do not. I have called the office twice now for students who went missing when I allowed them to leave the room. Ah, middle school! We found them, so I guess that counts as winning, huh?

  3. Amen. I too would love to see pass-free bathroom rights. Unfortunately in the name of management and supervision or in parentis loco... I doubt we'll see that day in high schools here. Knowing where students are is important in this post-Columbine age. Today we had threats and locked doors and extra police. At my school our teachers have to use a special color-coded pass that shows administrators at a glance which part of campus kids come from. I wish there was no need.

  4. Mr. Kelley, sweet story about Taylor. She is an amazing young woman and you had such a wonderful influence on her in her middle and high school years. Thanks for that! Taylor's Dad.