The Power of Detentions

detention quiet

If we had to host our own detentions…

  • how many would we write?
  • how would we want student behavior impacted as a result?
  • how would we work toward achieving that result during our time with the student?

Answering these questions may provide insight into the power of our detentions–and perhaps more importantly–offer insight into what we value as educators.

How many would we write? If the thought of spending more time with kids who have just broken a rule, not turned in an assignment, defied a request, or disrespected us makes our tummies queasy, I ask that we consider this: these kids need us more than ever at this time. And, oddly enough, we need them.

The students need us because we are their teachers, and they need to be taught/re-taught expectations, responsibility, order, or respect. We can teach math, science, art, etc., without kids in our rooms, but we cannot teach kids without kids in our rooms. Teachers teach KIDS.

We need more time with these students, not less. More time spent with kids increases the likelihood of cultivating relationships, both academic and social emotional. Research suggests that students learn and experience increased success when we’ve developed positive relationships with them.

How would we want student behavior impacted as a result? I’ve seen teachers stumped in silence when asked this question. In the heat of the moment, sometimes we become egocentric. What we “want” is for students to be punished as a result of their behavior toward us. When we find ourselves here, I suggest re-routing our focus. It is challenging to prescribe resolutions for students when we are focused on ourselves. Do we want increased student responsibility? Respect for the learning environment? Compassion for our community? It is imperative that as educators and professionals we prescribe student-centered solutions that promote positive behavior moving forward.

How would we work toward achieving that result during our time with the student? If the detention time is not dedicated to improving the probability of positive student behavior moving forward, it runs the risk of being punitive. Consequences for the sake of punishment can quickly deteriorate student-teacher relationships, thus decreasing the probability of positive student behavior moving forward. This can lead to a cycle of infractions and punishments that viciously and exponentially feed one another.

If detentions are time spent with kids, focused on student learning outcomes and positive behavior, and we engage with them to promote such, let’s give all our kids detentions! They can serve them during the natural course of the day, and we can just call it teaching.

If you have ways you seamlessly build relationships and incorporate compassionate re-teaching responsively and flexibly during your school day, please share.

3 Comments

  1. Brian Silberberg said:

    I find this to be a very thought provoking and meaningful reconsideration of detention. Thinking past the “obvious” about detention is a useful way to rethink why detention is useful (and what it may not be for). Shifting detention away from simply being a punishment, and towards being a constructive way to work with students has a lot of potential, and is something I’d love to see more of in education.

    January 28, 2015
    • Sam LeDeaux said:

      Thank you for the read, Brian! The term discipline derives from the Latin word disciplina, which means “instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge”. Thus, to truly discipline our kids, rather than ostracize and isolate, we must focus on embracing them to teach and re-teach our expectations.

      February 7, 2015

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