I have a whole pile of assorted pieces of work for them to complete, but I soon realise that the reading ages in the room are low and many pupils could only complete tasks if I gave them intensive individual support. But the rule is supposed to be a total penitential silence.
Many of my villains are already in a very ugly mood when they arrive. Apparently, they have received early morning phone calls reminding them of the detention. Parents have forced them to get out of bed. I placate and threaten them into silence. I feel like a lion-tamer walking a tightrope.
Forty-five minutes have gone by and we have kept the silence, but I can see that some of the detainees are beginning to get bored and restless. A whistling noise starts somewhere in the room. Have you ever tried to catch the person whistling? It is very difficult. I decide to ignore the whistling but make threats about adding on time for some people.
The only way to handle such detentions is to stay calm and use a bit of humour to get out of a difficult situation. Reward the majority who do their detention without fuss. You can let them leave earlier than the official time. Send a pupil home if their silly behaviour is threatening the whole group's attitude. They can always serve their detention again!
Paul Blum, Senior manager in a north London comprehensive.