Saturday, November 25, 2006

School Detention

After-school detentions: what's your take on this?

I have students with special needs who are oppositional and defiant as diagnosed. Writing them up for detention or any kind of punishment do not work anymore. I believe that detention is a good way of disciplining students who are consistently breaking school rules, if and only if done properly.

The word "detention" has already an aversive connotation, it sounds like we're showing the students how it is like in juvenile prison camps. It is never student-centered. It is not teacher-centered either. Teachers who are scheduled to supervise detentions, who are just walking back and forth making sure that students in detention are sitting quietly still, are no more than baby sitters during this time.

Personally, I don't see any pro's to traditional detention. It just doesn't work anymore. The kids, whose behavior is such that they warrant detention, don't respect the authority of the school. It might've been effective back in the day, but let's face it, a new solution has to be found, because students don't respond to this type of punishment anymore. Just as students have evolved, so too must the methods of punishment.

So much time is wasted in traditional detention, students just sit in a room copying lines.

A class should not be stressful but relaxed, creative learning environment and not a punitive environment. Why can't we modify traditional detentions to a venue for Character Development?

Any ideas?


Liz Davis said...


I totally agree with you. In your statement and question, "A class should not be stressful but relaxed,creative learning environment and not a punitive environment. Why can't we modify traditional detentions to a venue for Character Development?" you have answered your own question. Detention can easily be transformed into an extended teaching/learning opportunity, but you, the teacher must take the lead on this. Please don't expect the 'how to' to come from the local school leader or the principal. Flex your 'teacher' muscle, write a one page plan/proposal to the principal (copied to teachers)informing them of how detention can be transformed from prison-like activities to authentic learning actvities. YOU are the expert!Send us your proposal. We'll tweak it and send it back, but you must take the lead!

Love you,

Liz Davis
Teacher Consultant
DC Area Writing Project

Deb said...

Hi marisol,

What a fantastic point to raise! There is little point in detention and with the younger ones, we do not use it anyway. If you are to keep children after school, why shouldn’t it be to attend a programme designed to teach them about behaviour and consequences, being good citizens and good members of our school community. it would take a bit of planning from your guidance counsellor team, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to devise a programme or even adapt what you may already have in place. It would focus the children who attend detention and give them something constructive to do and plenty to think about.

With the little ones, I often sit them out of my group, saying if they are choosing to behave badly, they are choosing not to learn and are also distracting others from learning which is unfair. They sit aside until they are ready to rejoin us, when they apologise to the group of us. I try to put the responsibility on them and make them see that it is their choice. If the behaviour has been directed at someone else, I often set a homework activity which asks for a letter of apology to the party in question. My whole rationale is less teaching time is interrupted with dealing with these incidents but the children make up for it in their own time, showing them that their choices have consequences..

Just a few ideas and methods, but the start of a great debate.


Dr Freddie Acosta said...


I think I may be able to share something about detention. Because in here, detention works perfectly well. Key: it is a joint effort between 3 people: teachers (school), student and parents.

My children had experience detention in the past, say because of incomplete uniform, unpolished shoes, not doing their assignment, making noise in class, not bringing his sports kit, quarelling with classmates, etc.

They were asked to be detained 1 Saturday from morning to noon, this time always in complete uniform bringing 1 notebook and 1 book to read.

For me as a parent, it is really very inconvient driving 25kms bringing him to school and picking him up after 4 hours. It is also very inconvenient for the child because he wont be able to play with his friends/brothers. It is not only a 'punishment' for the child but also for the parents as well. After the first detention, I always involved myself in disciplining my sons. I see to it that they abide to school policies, do their assignments, etc.

Detention wont work if it is seen as a mere punishment without making the child understand. It should be seen as an opportunity to be more disciplined, more organized, more studious, and more behaved. Communication is the key. Each pupil, student must have a personal tutor or mentor to talk on anything, about anything...I dont even recommend the guidance office (GO). The GO has very bad connotation. .the student must understand that what he did was wrong, he must understand the consequneces if he continue to repeat the same behaviour (future life). It must be a corrective action but administered with compassion and love. (Take for example the movie Take the Lead by Antonio Banderas). ACtually, there are many American movies that depict successful intervention of schools/teachers to misbehaving students.

Being in a good school, the student will realise what he will be loosing/missing once he is expelled. In the case of Strathmore School (www.strathmore. , the waiting list for those wanting to join the school is very long. Parents dreamed of their children to belong to such schools because of quality education (curricular) , character building, religious training, sports training, social life short a balance formation.

Will detention still work? The answer is YES if done properly.

Lucy said...

Hi There,
I'm a Special Education Teacher too, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I'm frustrated daily by the things classroom teachers do to 'my kids'. For example, ad student with LD is on an IEP that states clearly that tests and assignments must be offered in oral or pictoral form as well as in the written form - yet they always test this student in the written form. "They're lazy, they can do it" they say to me. I call lazy the L word. They can't do it - that's the reason they're on an IEP! Detention is another issue. You are punishing a student for something that they can't do without accommodations as written in their IEP! I pull my hair out daily with these dilemmas. We need training in Special Ed. for all teachers, not just a few.
Great blog! It's great to know that someone is living a similar life to me.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

In our school it is the security with the supervision of the assistant principal/dean of students affair watches over these students as most teachers are doing after school tutoring. This in a way doesn't look good because the ambiance of detention is like putting students in juvenile jail. Well, the purpose of traditional detention is to curtail their priveleges. When they are in detention they don't get to play with their sports team and join after school clubs so it is in a way putting in discipline to the students. I certainly agree that detention would be an effective tool for disciplinary measures when done properly and with the support of the parents, students, teachers and even the community. I'm a special education teacher in an Indian reservation and the culture of my Native American students are different from our Filipino students, Hispanic and other Americans. For them the important thing is to see some stability with the school system and imparting in them that we mean serious business with what we expect of them in school. Detention would be meaningful if they know that the reason we're doing them is because we care and not because they're being punish. The objective of their detention should be made clear to the students before they're even implemented. I believe whatever behavior measures we're doing for our students for as long as it is rooted in sincere concern and love nothing would go wrong...!
Neng De Vera

Anonymous said...

I am a student at a school and i hate teachers who give out afternoon detentions for the most minnor reasons. I have many friends who get afternoon detentions on a regluar basis. I hate it how the teacher believes that giveing a detention is a good thing to do, like they tink it is the right thing to do but I believe that detentions dont work at all. None of my frineds have ever said to me "mr blah gave me and detention today for being late, I'm never going to be late agian." They usally say "mr Blah that s#!t gave my a frikn detention." So thinking about this topic i have decided that the next time a teacher decided to give me a detention im going to look them in the eye and ask them "do you really think that by giving me this detention im going to never do this agian, because if you do, your wrong because i will do this agian and your stupid detentions wont stop me."

Promethean Planet


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