A better use of time

I thought I lucked out this year by being assigned lunch detention as my duty.  This would be a great opportunity to sit in a room by myself and grade papers.  Sure, once in a while some student would get detention, but that shouldn’t happen that often.  

Well, except for the first 2 days of school, there has been someone in there every day with me.  Still, not so bad and can still get a lot done.  Then the rules came out.
No cell phones
No talking
No ipods
No sitting near each other
No sleeping
Students are to do school work or sit quietly
Students are expected to have the same behavior as found in your classroom
I had been struggling with some of these rules as I see the fact that the students are being pulled away from their friends and put into a room with no windows for 52 minutes as punishment enough.  But the last comment is what was really bugging me.  If you are a reader of my blog you know that I encourage collaboration, cell phone use, iPods every single day.  My students are encouraged to make the classroom as comfortable a learning environment as possible.
So Thursday comes and a student walks in absolutely radiating anger.  This was now his 7th day of detention out of 10 days of school.  He had no school work so he spent about 10 minutes muttering a stream of very unpleasant phrases while he colored on scrap paper.  He put on his iPod at some point when I wasn’t looking and I only noticed it because the music was loud enough for me to hear.  I told him the rule on iPods, but since it calmed him down (music soothes the savage beast?) I let it slide.  But this angry teenager got me thinking:
  1. If detention is designed to be so miserable that no one wants to come back, why is this student back for the 7th time?
  2. This student is going to sit in a room for 52 minutes and fume over the fact that he is there.  Now he is going to be released to a classroom for 80 minutes where he is likely to lash out at another student, or worse the teacher, and get suspended for some new infraction.
On my drive home, I decided that I didn’t want lunch detention anymore because it went against everything I believe in.  Isn’t the point of being an educator to develop relationships with the students and to find innovative ways to educate them about the world around them?  So as I am discussing my day with my wife a thought popped into my head:
If a student was found to be on drugs during school, the school would find ways to help the student get over the addiction and rehabilitate his/her life.  Why don’t we do the same thing with lunch detention?  If a student is being assigned to multiple detentions, shouldn’t we be taking steps to stop the bad behavior in the first place?
Here’s my idea:  develop a character building program within lunch detention.  We have different punishments for different offenses so we will develop a tiered system depending on what the students have done.  If a student is 1st time offender and is only given 1 day, they may get nothing.  A student who has received several days or is returning for a different offense might have to watch a TED talk and complete some critical thinking questions.  A student like I mentioned above might have to read a thought provoking book, again with guiding questions, and discuss what his thoughts were with the lunch detention proctor.  In all of these, the students would report back to the administrator who assigned the detention to build that relationship, measure growth and understanding, and have meaningful conversations about the behavior.
Doesn’t this approach make a lot more sense?
If your school is using something like this, I would love to hear about it.  All thoughts/comments are welcomed.

4 thoughts on “A better use of time

  1. Kate Baker

    What will motivate the student to do the lunch detention assignment? If scholarly pursuits in the classroom are not working, why would a scholarly pursuit work in detention? (Playing devil's advocate)

    Look at the causes of the detention: is it for the same superfluous reason (cellphone use in class, dress code, breaking “the rules” etc) or is the same teacher writing up the same student repeatedly? Is there some unidentified learning issue & the student is lashing out out of frustration? Is there something in the personal life and the student is transferring home issues to school?

    What did Franklin say, “an ounce of prevention…”? Conflict resolution & management skills are key. Get a therapy dog program or peer mentoring….

    But I wholeheartedly agree that traditional detention does not deter disruptive students (alliteration & consonance on purpose!) 🙂


  2. kmartflips

    I wouldn't say we are using something like this, but I find it very interesting. We are using PBIS, with the focus on positive interventions. We have pretty much gotten rid of detentions all together at the high school level. We have had our issues, but we are experimenting with these other types of interventions instead of the sit and be punished form you are dealing with. We all know that just doesn't help. Love your thoughts. I was never a big PBIS guy when we were starting to talk about it as a high school, but using some of your techniques mentioned above, I could see a great blend!


  3. Marc Seigel

    The hope is the assignment will spark some sort of interest and give them something to think about. And it is so easy to customize to what the student wants to learn. So, if the student is getting in trouble because they don't see the point in school and are acting out, then maybe we tailor it to allow him/her to learn about something they are interested in.

    And I would love to get a therapy dog, but there is no way that is going to fly in my school. People already think I'm crazy, bringing a dog every day would just prove them correct.



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