On two occasions, the tactic of letting students earn the right to have their detention cancelled has been recommended to me. For example, if I give Charlie a detention for bad behaviour, and then he's good and completes an agreed amount of work for the rest of the lesson, he should "earn" the right to have his detention cancelled. The reason given is that some children will just see the rest of the lesson as pointless since they already have a detention and will have little motivation to follow the teacher's instructions after that moment. Do you allow your students to do this? If not, how do you deal with those who don't follow instructions after detentions are given? How can you get them to complete a good amount of work?
What you said
No, I don't let them earn it off. Yes, some children give up - but then they get a heavier sanction. The only time I have reduced a sanction is when I have felt that perhaps with hindsight I misjudged a situation (or misheard something). It happens rarely, perhaps twice a year.
I don't. I don't like the message it can send out that it is OK to break the rules in the first 10 minutes of the lesson (crucial settling time as it is) and then behave better for the rest of it. I do reward them if they make a big improvement that would have deserved credit anyway, which has sometimes resulted in me giving a credit and a detention at the end of the lesson to the same student. Of course, you need to explain why they earned each one.
The expert view
If you let a child off a detention as an incentive to improve, what's the incentive to not misbehave in the first place? The deterrent is diluted and children learn that it is OK to be a bit naughty if they're good later - and that's something you've encouraged. It sounds nice but in reality it's misplaced compassion and will be interpreted by many students as weakness, not benevolence. And it means that a dozen kids could ruin your lesson at different times but nothing would happen to them as a consequence. Nice in theory but bad in practice.
Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES Connect blog (bit.lytombennett) or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher Proof, is out now, published by Routledge
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