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  • Majid Hussain

Detentions - do they work?


I was in a predicament the other week where I had just finished a unit and a quite few of my students from each of my seven secondary classes had not handed in their evaluations. I have been giving reminders throughout the units with good student examples, so they were aware. The next step then (following school policy) was to issue an after school detention for those who missed all of their evaluations and break/lunch time who submitted some but not all. The problem with this was that for all the after school detentions, I had to send an email to parents to give them notice and let them know when the detention was. This was going to take a lot of my time (approx. 2 hours) and then I also knew that some of these students were not going to turn up to this detention, which then progressed into a detention with management, which required some more emails.

I questioned myself of whether it was worth giving the detentions and whether these detentions were useful to the student or was this my way of making a point? They had already got a zero for their assessment, so their PE grade had already been affected. Was this really worth the trouble?

I remember when I was at school, I used to be in detention all the time in primary school but in secondary, I had a few minor ones for talking, and I hated detentions. When I was threatened with a detention, I sorted myself out.

I also remember in my previous international school, we were not allowed to give detentions, so when students did not hand in their work, there were no consequences at all. All the teachers felt powerless in this situation and I remember wishing we could give detentions.

Now I am in a school where detentions are common and it is part of the behaviour policy. I am not one of those teachers that dishes out detentions. 99% of the time I deal with behaviour within the class and the only times I give detentions are when students have forgotten their kit after a certain number of times in a term. The only other time is when students have to do homework evaluations, which is 2-3 times a year per class, and they don't submit it. Granted, I could do the evaluations in my class, but with only 35-40 minutes of teaching time, I want to prioritse the physical activity aspect of the lesson.

I did not know if giving them a zero for their assessment and therefore getting a lower grade for PE, would have enough impact for them to change their behaviour or attitude, as the majority of the students or their parents are not bothered about their PE grades. I spoke to my colleague about this, who was in a similar situation to me, but with fewer classes and after debating it, I decided to issue the detentions. I spent 2 hours of my evening sending these emails and then woke up to a barrage of replies from parents trying to justify why their child had not submitted their evaluations.

During my next class with them, the students tried with their excuses but after speaking to them, I realised I made the right move by issuing the detentions. I felt that they were disappointed, whether this was because this will impact their PE grade, or the fact they have disappointed me/parents. I am now doing another unit that requires them to do mini evaluations throughout the unit and for the majority of them, they are submitting their evaluations.

However, the detention saga did continue for over a week, with the students not turning up to their original detention and this is extra work for me and the leadership team. I do believe that if you do set the standard with your classroom management and ask the students to raise their standards, rather than you lowering yours, regardless of how much time it takes initially, it will make it easier and more beneficial for you in the future.

Having said that, I do work with colleagues who dish out detentions for really petty things or have a reputation amongst students for giving out lots of detentions. I do not think detentions work all the time, and you will know what works best for each student in your class, but if you have given detentions to the same child for the same thing, then it's time for you to try out a new strategy.

#detentions

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