[Alternative Daily] In many schools across America, detention is the go-to punishment when a student misbehaves. The offending child is often told to go to the principal’s office, where a form of detention is assigned. For minor offenses, it is often lunch detention. For more serious, or pattern misbehavior, after-school detention is likely the verdict.
Of course, school systems vary greatly,
but the concept of detention for in-school punishment is widespread.
Kids are often told to sit quietly and do their homework. They are not
allowed to talk. They can’t do any “fun activities” so that they will
feel the weight of their punishment. However, is this method of
Whether or not detention is effective
may depend entirely on how instructors and principals handle it. As
Teresa Gemellaro, a teacher in Queensland, Australia, wrote for Quora:
“A detention where a teacher has a
restorative conversation with a student about how things can be improved
can be very effective.”
This makes sense. If teachers and
principals take the time to talk to students about why they acted out
and get to the root of the problem, they can discover constructive
solutions. Maybe the student is having trouble at home, or trouble with
peers. Maybe the course material is difficult for the student to
understand, and this is leading to aggression or distracted behavior.
Having an open dialogue with a
student when they misbehave can bring these sorts of issues to the
surface. It allows teachers, principals, students and parents to work on
improving them together. If root causes are addressed, the
“problematic” symptoms of student misbehavior may be positively
In many cases, however, detention is
not a place where open dialogue between students and teachers is
created. Many schools simply have students sit quietly as punishment,
and this may be largely ineffective for many students. As Gemellaro
“A detention where the teacher makes
the child write out lines, or some other activity that has no bearing on
the problem and does not cause the student to reflect on the effect of
their behavior is much less likely to be effective. It will work for
some students, simply because they do not want to waste time on similar
detentions in the future. However, in terms of increasing the maturity
of the student to reflect on their own behavior, and make better choices
as a result of good decision making, it is not so effective.”
As an alternative to standard
detention, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland is
trying something revolutionary: sending kids to a meditation room.
If a student acts out in class, the teacher directs them to the
“Mindful Moment Room” instead of handing them a detention slip.
The Mindful Moment Room is adorned
with zen decorations and comfy pillows. There, teachers guide students
in breathing exercises and mindfulness. This allows them to calm down
and get their feelings into perspective. Additionally, instructors
encourage students to talk through the situation that occurred, and get
to the root of why they acted the way they did.
The Mindful Moment Room was put into
place with the help of the nonprofit organization Holistic Life
Foundation and it has been a great success. According to Kirk Philips,
Robert W. Coleman Elementary School’s Holistic Me coordinator, the
school had no suspensions last year — and none this year so far either.
At a nearby high school which has a similar mindfulness program,
attendance rates are up and suspension rates are down. Read More