The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

MIHS Teachers Need to Respect Students’ Time

Niko Ulshin

Discrepancies between teachers’ bathroom and timeliness policies across departments at MIHS create unnecessary stress for students.

Unlike other departments, most World Language teachers use passes to restrict students’ trips to the restroom. “I think it’s all the same through the department,” French teacher Deana Wiatr said. “You get five bathroom passes per semester. I have been teaching for 25 years and no one has ever needed more than that.”

Spanish teacher Lara Fitzgerald’s policy differs. “I give one per quarter,” Fitzgerald said, less than half of the passes Wiatr’s students receive. “It’s kind of not fair because [students who menstruate] have different reasons, and that’s an exception; I’m a reasonable person.”

The bathroom pass system was primarily instituted to ensure student safety. “I don’t want to police them leaving and coming from the room, so that way they just rip one off and they put it on my desk,” Wiatr said. “If we have a lockdown, I know who is out of the room, so it’s very safe that way.”

However, many teachers outside of the World Language department utilize other practices to achieve this without limiting students’ bathroom visits, such as having students write their name on a whiteboard before they leave a classroom. “It’s just a different way of doing it,” Wiatr said.

Although students have been able to adapt to bathroom pass policies, this method harms students and other teachers. Teachers like Wiatr and Fitzgerald assume that using the restroom during passing periods is realistic for students since they rarely use the few bathroom passes they have. “Kids find a way,” Fitzgerald said. “It must be [realistic] because somehow they’re making do. I have never had an accident in my classroom.”

Wiatr and Fitzgerald incentivize students to avoid going to the bathroom by offering extra credit to students that do not use their passes. Fitzgerald says this is why she only provides students with one pass each quarter. “Kids never use them and then since I give points, they would turn them all in,” Fitzgerald said. “If I gave more [passes], I would be inundated with all these passes at the end because very, very few kids use them.”

Students may rarely go to the bathroom during World Language classes, but that is because there is an incentive not to, not that it is feasible during a passing period. This is disrespectful to other teachers that do not require the use of bathroom passes nor offer extra credit since students are more likely to use the restroom in those classes. Additionally, there is no reasonable justification for students to deserve credit because of the strength of their bladder.

Since MIHS has no bell, the starts and ends of periods are often unclear. “Mercer Island works nicely,” history teacher John Stafford said. “A little more of a flow, a little less factory-oriented. A bell in my opinion at Mercer Island would overly formalize that.”

Although the absence of a bell creates a more relaxed culture, teachers are more likely to continue their lessons a couple minutes into passing periods. “Generally, I think teachers should let their students out on time because it is implicitly a little bit disrespectful,” Stafford said. “I acknowledge there are times when I don’t do that; I should work to improve that.”

Since there is no bell at the beginning of each period either, teachers have different perspectives regarding when a period begins. “Let’s say class starts at 12:55,” Stafford said. “As long as the clock hasn’t hit 12:56 when they’re ready to go, that’s fine.”

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald expects students in her classroom before the period starts. “I greet all the children at the door and then when it turns [12]:55, I shut the door,” Fitzgerald said. “If they use the bathroom, they get marked tardy, but that’s not a big deal.”

If a student is let out of a class two minutes after the passing period begins and they are expected to enter another classroom one minute before the passing period ends, there is barely enough time to get from one room to the other, and certainly no time for a student to use the bathroom. MIHS must implement clear expectations for teachers regarding when a period begins and ends as well as when students can use the bathroom to cultivate an environment of mutual trust and respect.

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About the Contributor
Kyle Gerstel
Kyle Gerstel, Head of Content

Kyle Gerstel (he/him) is a junior at MIHS and this is his third year as part of The Islander. Outside of school, Kyle is the Producing Artistic Director of Penguin Productions, an intergenerational theater dedicated to producing pay-what-you-choose youth productions as well as cultivating new works by teen playwrights. He likes Love Actually and The Big Short and dislikes 13 Going on 30 and when people sneeze loudly.


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    Paelun BFeb 29, 2024 at 11:57 am

    The art for this article is insanely good. The point is also good though too lol, I’ve always found bathroom passes to be really obnoxious as they don’t allow you to pace yourself well and use the bathroom when most convenient for your work. Just because someone hasn’t had “an accident” in your class doesn’t mean your system is working, as they could just be quietly suffering through class and not paying attention to the work.