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Last week I received a detention from my school for arriving late three times. I had actually been late more like six or seven times, but my school kept changing the late book before I could collect three lates in the one book. Unluckily they hadn’t changed the book between my previous two lates and last week, so I got the detention. Although in my defence, I haven’t been late to a single class all year — only homeroom “team meetings”. And much as my vice-principal protests otherwise, homeroom “team meetings” are complete wastes of time; we never do anything there, and vital information is certainly never “disseminated” like my vice-principal deludes herself into thinking it is.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that this afternoon, I had to attend detention to punish me for my lateness. Not that I minded that much. To be honest, detention isn’t much of a deterrent. I mean, what is it? It’s staying back 40 minutes after school in a relatively comfortable room, laughing in amusement at the disputes between your fellow detainees and the supervising teacher, and when that fails you can do some homework without being distracted by all the wonderful tools of procrastination in your house. I stay back at school later than that willingly on a semi-regular basis. Why would I care about detention?

Unfortunately my school was way ahead of me. For this day, the only day I’ve ever had a detention, the supervising teacher happened to be trialling a new method of punishment for “detention kids”: community service.

When she made this announcement, I was bewildered. That wasn’t what detention was about! For a second I was afraid this was what it had been about all along, but my far more detention-savvy fellow students were bewildered too. “Miss, do you know what detention MEANS?!” they spluttered. “It means being detained. IN HERE.”

“Where’s the punishment in that?” she retorted. “Nope, all of you, up, we’re going!”

Miss,” whined someone else, “I don’t want to sound like a pretty princess, but I did my nails yesterday!”

“Good for you! Now up!”

We didn’t really have a choice in the matter, so we got up, and obediently went where she ordered us to go: the gym. Our task was to scrub the outside walls of the gym clean from months’ worth of mud and bird poo, using rags and brooms to reach those hard-to-read places.

There was a fight over who got to use the brooms, since there were only three of them and about ten of us. No one wanted to clean the walls with a rag, because that would get their hands dirty. Once the brooms had been claimed, the others picked up their rags and obediently began to wipe away the grime of the lower part of the wall.

Except me. I wasn’t participating in any of this.

I wasn’t being disruptive or anything, I just wasn’t going to do demeaning work without being forced. When the supervisor realised I wasn’t cooperating, she asked me, “So you’re not going to do this little task?”

“No,” I replied.

“Okay then.” That was all. She didn’t even try to make me.

So in the end, for me, detention wasn’t that much of an ordeal. Yes I had to stand outside for twenty minutes, but it was a really nice afternoon, and I got to watch all my fellow “detention kids” whine ignorantly about how “mean” it was that they were being forced to work.

“I never thought detention could be this punishing,” moped the girl who’d done her nails the night before.

Good!” cried the supervisor. “Maybe you’ll behave from now on, then!”

“This is CHILD LABOUR!”

“Yes, that’s exactly what it is! Well done!”

“Uggggggh!”

I never enlightened the others to the fact that no one was actually forcing them to do anything. Mostly they didn’t ask. One of them did ask why I wasn’t cleaning, but that particular individual is quite annoying and it amused me to watch him fume. All he had to do to get out of cleaning was to question authority. It never even occurred to him. Oh, the curious ways in which others’ minds work.

So, no. Detention wasn’t that bad. Although given the success of this particular session, I’m concerned that the school might turn its community service scheme into an actual punishment, rather than or in addition to detentions. I said at the very start of this entry that detentions aren’t much of a deterrent for me, but if I had to do community service, I might reconsider. I mean, what if other teachers didn’t let me get away with not participating?

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  1. By Grade six « Jayeless on 15 Jul 2009 at 12:29 am

    […] of rubbish bins, I would tell them they could dream on. IN FACT, even when I was SUPPOSED to be cleaning the school gym in detention, I […]

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