Detention Alternative Gives Students Tools for Positive Behavior
Instead of letting kids sit in silence, lunchtime detention focuses on conversation and compassion, not punishment.
One seventh-grader was caught saying mean things to a schoolmate. Another student pushed someone.
But today, thanks to an innovative detention program at A. Vito Martinez Middle School in Romeoville, both young men plan to change their ways.
The program, an education-based lunch detention, takes place in a conference-room setting. Sometimes, students read portions of Sean Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens or other appropriate books. Other times, students and school counselor Anita Hilton discuss topics related to the particular infraction that landed them in detention. Infractions could include bullying, showing disrespect, being tardy or a host of other misdeeds.
Group discussions may focus on positive relationships; keeping control of oneself; learning about compassion, empathy and honesty; changing one's self-image; or learning to understand others.
"I learned not to say mean thing to other kids," said one student.
"I learned that you should treat people the way you want to be treated," said another.
Their new perspectives reflect the goal to use the 25-minute detention as an opportunity to help students learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them. Any Martinez student is eligible for the alternative program, which offers a stark contrast to previously silent detentions.
"The students were just sitting in silence," Hilton said. "We had a captive audience, so the hope was that the education-based lunch detention would allow for collaboration with other students and counselors, so students could learn to make better choices for their future."
According to Principal Kelly Gilbert, "Mrs. Hilton had come to me, knowing that we were looking at the lunch detention component, looking at ways we could utilize that time more efficiently."
So far, parents appreciate the time spent on improving their children's behavior.
"The parent feedback we have had is that they're happy we're keeping their students in school," Gilbert said. "Parents are happy we're using this time proactively for their child during the day."
School administrators are also pleased with the initial success of the program.
"I believe that students now have the tools that will assist them in their everyday interaction," Hilton said. "They have a better understanding of their own role, in how their own behavior contributes to positive or negative outcomes. They are really in control of their outcomes."
"The kids aren't coming away with, 'Oh, that was fun, I want to go back.' The emphasis is that it is a teaching time," said Gilbert. "We are going through a group therapy session, per se, teaching students some positive skills so they don't have another occurrence of that same infraction. The lessons are very specific."
Those lessons, she said, focus on three Martinez values: respect, responsibility and positive relationships.
"We know through research that we have to teach students the skills associated with those values," Gilbert said. "This is one teaching way to provide students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and not land themselves in the same situation again."
After serving an education-based lunch detention, at least one seventh-grader has learned his lesson.
"When I walk in the hallways and see other people bullying, I think, 'Why are they doing that?' Bullying doesn't make sense anymore."