The Passing Period: More Like A Passing Dash

When parents have a bone to pick with a teacher or a school, it’s definitely a whole different ballgame than everyday consumer complaints. Many things race through your head when trying to decide if you should speak out or not.  Will the teacher take it out on my child in the classroom if I complain? Will my complaint really make a difference? Will they laugh at me after I leave? You know there are those parents who are in the principal’s office every week spouting off about this or that.  Will I be labeled as “a complainer”, too? Oh, I may hold up the grocery store line once in awhile to have them do a price check, but not enough to where they’d remember me.  But at a school? Usually you plan on being there for several years, every day for 9 ½ months out of each year.  They’ll remember you. It’s enough to make a parent keep their mouth shut. And many do.  I have complained over the years, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve complained in 10 years.  I try to pick and choose my battles carefully. Like the time Allison’s kindergarten class left the school to walk to a nearby park for an outing, and left Allison behind, in the school bathroom. She came home that night and told me she was a little scared and sad when she realized everyone had gone, and she walked out of the school all by herself and down the street to join the kids at the park playground.  That was definitely complaint-worthy! Then there was the teacher who spent more time screaming at the kids and making them put their heads on their desks than actually teaching them anything.  And the teacher who would routinely leave the classroom, during class, to chat with other teachers in the hall for long periods of time, and also leave group tutoring sessions in the same way, sessions that kids had gotten up at the crack of dawn to attend.  “Talk amongst yourselves,” she’d say, and leave.  It took me a long time to come forward on that one. She was an award-winning teacher.  But the kids were getting disillusioned, and their grades were tanking.  Though other parents knew about the problem, I was one of only two who came forward and said anything. “Why did you wait so long?” the principal said.

Now another problem that has been festering for awhile has finally come to the surface, and I think I need to put it on the list of “worth complaining about”.  Only to who, and how, I’m not quite sure.  Here’s the issue: remember how “back in the day” in jr. high and high school, we used to have 10 minutes between classes? We could used the restroom, or stand at our lockers and brush our hair using the mirror in our cool “locker caddy”, or walk our significant other to their class and still have time to make it to our own. Well, I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but kids in many jr. high and high schools today only have 5 minutes between classes.  Our school district is no exception.  Allison’s high school is huge, with row upon row of beautiful, blue painted lockers, and NO ONE — USES THEM.  Bond money was used to build even more lockers a few years ago when 9th grade was added to the high school, and still, NO ONE — USES THEM.  Seriously.  There’s no time to use them, and as a result, many kids get a huge school bag and carry everything with them, all day, so they won’t be late to class.  Allison’s bag last year was so big, she could have easily taken our dog to school, along with her notebooks, textbooks, and lunch, and no one would have noticed.  That bag was so heavy, I couldn’t carry it more than a couple steps. It’s no wonder she’s been told by a dance teacher that her shoulders are out of alignment!  But that’s not the main reason I want to complain about the short passing periods.  The worst casualty of cramming as many classes as possible into one day is that kids, especially girls, don’t have time to use the restroom between classes.  And during class, many teachers have a policy of zero bathroom breaks, or they give kids 6 bathroom passes to use for the entire semester.  Huh? I hadn’t heard about this much in the past because Allison had “potty-friendly teachers”, but this year she doesn’t, and said she was almost in tears one day last week by around 4:00 pm.  I did the math.  She hadn’t been able to use the restroom since 9 that morning.  Ouch. And in the “mean girls” pecking order of the cafeteria lunch table, if she gets up at lunch to use the restroom, she says her seat will be taken when she gets back… so she doesn’t get up. 

Two days after Allison told me this, a friend of mine remarked that her daughter, a new 7th grader, could hardly concentrate on learning anything because of the “potty policy” of her teachers, and said the daughter told her that now she and her friends won’t hardly drink any water at lunch so they won’t feel uncomfortable later.  I realized the same thing happens at the high school.  Allison, and Cleo, rarely pack drinks in their lunches. Don’t kids need to stay hydrated, especially when the weather is still 100 degrees outside? Can’t you get kidney infections from “holding it in” all day? And, if we can get really frank here for a moment—where there are teenage girls, there are menstruating girls.  Just when do they have time to take care of that issue? Can we say “at greater risk of toxic shock”?  

Naturally, I feel compelled to do something about this. I have a gut feeling that not many parents, if any, have felt the same way. (And even if they did, who has the time??? And who wants to talk about kidneys??? Or tampons??????) But, to whom do you complain? The school nurse?  The principal? The underlying problem is the scheduling, and it would probably take an act of God to add more time to the passing periods, which would lengthen the school day.  But I do have one ace up my sleeve.  I sit on a district-wide School Health Advisory Committee, composed of principals, parents, physical education teachers, school nurses and school dieticians.  I’ve been on it for years, and we just happen to be having our first meeting of the semester tomorrow morning.  Maybe it could be brought up there. (Then again, maybe I will just put my head down on the desk…) 

20 thoughts on “The Passing Period: More Like A Passing Dash”

  1. Oh my gosh. I’m in shock. Not because I wouldn’t put it past them to shorten passing periods, but shocked because I never thought about the implications. This makes me sad for the girls especially. You HAVE to say something. And soon. And loudly.

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