Does detention as a form of discipline work

Abigail Carlin, Columnist

Recently, I started my practicum teaching at a local high school. Essentially, practicum is student teaching before student teaching, so I am only in the classroom for half the day for half of a semester. It is a wonderful opportunity to get my feet wet with teaching before jumping in head first during student teaching. Practicum offers ample opportunity for planning lessons, acting as the lead teacher and, unfortunately, dealing with discipline.

I understand that discipline is a logistical matter in the education field, but I have a few philosophical issues with issuing detentions to my students. Luckily, I have never been in a situation where a detention was warranted. Usually, my approach to classroom management works as a solid preventative approach to bad behavior. If students are happy, feel respected, and feel like their voice is heard, students feel motivated to complete the work and come to class on time. Alas, the sunshine and rainbows could not last forever.

Today, I was observing a senior English class in the media lab. Students were tasked to complete a variety of projects with their task force, and if they finished that, they had ample work due within the next few days to work on. In short, there was no excuse for being bored or playing games on the computer. Naturally, a few students tried to play Tetris or Minecraft, but once I reminded students to work they closed out of the programs and continued their projects. No big deal, except for one student.

This student, as I later learned, has a chronic case of boredom and disinterest. No matter the task, no matter the content, this student always believes that his time is better spent staring at the wall or playing Tetris. I had to redirect him multiple times, and despite my efforts, he remained insistent on doing anything other than his assigned task. Because I am new to that class and I am not super familiar with the students, I wrote it off as him having a bad day and did not think much of it until I debriefed with my cooperating teacher (the main teacher in that class). Turns out, this behavior absolutely warrents a detention, but she and I had a really good conversation regarding discipline and punishment.

While my cooperating teacher believes that a detention should be issued tomorrow, I cannot, in good conscience, give this student a detention. Not that I believe his behavior is OK (insubordination is not accepted in any educational setting), but I do not believe that delayed punishment is productive. It is my opinion that if a student is to be punished for something, the punishment must happen right then and there. Waiting any longer than a few minutes separates the behavior and the punishment, resulting in resentment for the teacher.

Before 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, I have to decide what I am going to do with the Tetris-enthusiast. I know that I will not give him a detention, but I want to have a serious discussion regarding my expectations and his performance. I believe that high school students are capable of acknowledging the consequences and implications of their answers, and there are much more effective ways of relaying that message than handing out detentions.

Abigail Carlin is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].