Thursday, September 22, 2011

Battle smoke

This hall houses my shared office. My classroom is on the other side of campus. Sorry for the quality of the picture; I took it with my phone.

"You won the battle, but you haven't won the war," I told my students last week.

Since the beginning of the semester my students have been whining about needing a break. We have an hour and fifty minute class. I am not convinced by their pleas. Besides, other instructors have warned me that five minute breaks stretch to seven minutes and then eleven minutes and then fifteen minutes.

"No break," I told my students. I explained that if they needed to use the restroom they did not need permission; they could just quietly leave the room and then return when they were done.

When verbal negotiations failed to advance their cause, my students staged a surprise attack. About halfway through class I usually give the students an activity to get them out of their seats. They were supposed to be practicing asking each other questions when first one student and then another had to go to the "bathroom." Two-thirds of my class went to the "bathroom" at the same time. They sucked on breath mints when they came back, but still smelled so much like smoke it made me sneeze.

They won that battle. 

Next class we struck a compromise. A five minute break. Five minutes exactly. Not six, not eight, not eleven. Five minutes. I also instituted a one-person-at-a-time bathroom policy. 

I was surprised. The first day they all managed to slide through the doorway before the time expired. 

The next day, though, one student was one minute late. Inwardly, I cackled an evil-sounding laugh. But I was very professional when I announced, "No smoke break tomorrow."

"She's joking," they said. I wasn't.

I won that battle. But I doubt the war is over.


  1. Yuck...I don't envy you. Second-hand bathroom breaks can be bad for your lungs.:-)

    ~ Betsy

  2. You go they know you are going to follow through they will not be so surprised next time. And there will be a next time. Maybe you can set up a positive for everyone being "on time" all week. Kind of like everyone getting D O N E by 10. Maybe chocolate treat on the last day of the week if no one messes up. You could even ask for students to donate a bag of chocolate in anticipation of the day they can celebrate :)