Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Tony Tan, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jennifer Wolgemuth, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Denton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mandie Dunn, Ph.D.


neoliberalism, teacher bathroom access, teacher stress, teacher working conditions


The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher bathroom dilemma, a term I coined to describe teachers not having adequate access to the bathroom during their workdays. While this issue is widely known by those in the profession, only a handful of articles have been written on this topic. The teacher bathroom dilemma is part of a litany of working conditions that have intensified due to the neoliberal turn in education, forcing teachers to perform precarious actions that endanger their physical and psychological health. This dissertation explored how the teacher bathroom dilemma impacted teachers’ work and personal lives. From a critical poststructuralist paradigm, I conducted a qualitative study using an institutional ethnotheatrical methodology that was a combination of institutional ethnography and ethnodrama. To illustrate the universality of the problem, I interviewed nine teachers from a wide range of geographic locations, levels of experience, grade levels taught, and types of school environments, as well as two administrators. From these interviews, I created a script that was then performed and filmed, followed by a detailed analysis of what this performance revealed about the institution of American public schools. The performance highlighted the emotional and physical toll of the teacher bathroom dilemma, while satirizing the absurdity of expectations placed on teachers using characters such as sock puppets and bladder clowns. My analysis demonstrated the need to reexamine our current expectation for teachers regarding student supervision, and cited neoliberalism’s culture of accountability as the primary complicating factor that perpetuated the problem on a systemic scale.