I hate giving detention. I invite students to stay after school on a regular basis (notes on low test scores, weekly invite lists based on average grades, missing assignments or lack of progress on a long term project) but the consequence for not attending is merely that they continue to not understand or owe assignments. Giving detention for poor behavior makes me sad, because it says that my students don't respect me or their peers enough to change their behavior on their own. It says that students are acting appropriately because they don't want to stay after school, not because it's the right thing to do. Reaching this point makes me really disappointed in my kids, but also in myself- how could I have allowed students to get this far without establishing a relationship based on respect?
Here is the strange thing- I teach on a block schedule so we have classes A-D on Red days and E-H on White days, then the next day is a red day and so on. My red day classes are awesome. We can get serious, joke around, have conversations while we work, get off topic and then refocus. We have reached the sweet spot in the year when we all understand each other and class runs smoothly. My white day classes? If I give them a centimeter (not even an inch) they take a mile. They can't refocus or settle down or work independently. My regular geometry classes are at the same time of day - one red day, the other white day - but if someone observed one class and another person observed the other class they would have completely different impressions of my teaching and ability to run a class.
I realized last week that my F block was really getting out of hand so Friday I started class with a new seating arrangement and the prompt "Silently make a list of the characteristics of an A student." It did not happen silently but we started making a good list and almost had a good discussion about being born smart vs. working hard, but yet again a few kids kept shouting increasingly irrelevant things out while we were in the middle of a discussion. It ruins the momentum of any conversation when I have to stop to refocus students. I ended the conversation by telling everyone to pretend that they're an A student in class today. Somehow, class only got worse from there. Every other class I've used this prompt with has given me at least one good day. Apparently I need to cut back on the freedoms I allow them and start doling out consequences until we can get back to a state where the priority is learning, not random outbursts.
What do you do with a class that doesn't know what to do with a little bit of freedom and responsibility? I clearly need some help.