I enjoyed detention. I respected Dean of Students Mr. Luqman Kolade, and he respected me. I spent it writing, and he graded writing. He welcomed us into the Big Room and checked us off as if it was my fourth class of the day.
“No games,” Mr. Kolade told the group of Sixth Formers.
But we didn’t need games. We had each other. One student turned his head to see if Mr. Kolade was watching him. He was. They had this exchange of thoughts without uttering a word.
I’m sure he was thinking, “Is he looking? Yes, he’s looking. Okay, fine. I’ll open a Google doc.” And so he did.
The mood took a turn about ten minutes in. Spacebar clinks and divergent footsteps replaced smirks and giggles. As a howling wind crept through the top right window pane—a student must have left it unlatched in the fall—the sound transformed. I closed my eyes and listened. The sound would emerge and vanish, but after a few waves, I snapped back to reality. I could only focus on this noise because, simply put, it was the only noise. Everyone was so quiet.
I enjoyed my three-by-four, imaginary glass house that surrounded my desk. I was on trial for my crime, and I could not post bail, so I had to wait. And wait I did.
Haverford has never allowed me to do nothing, let alone forced me to. If I ever dozed off in class, I receive a figurative splash of water in my face—“Tyler, tell me what I just said about ultraviolet radiation.” Of course, I had no idea. But detention was no class.
For me, it was a gift—more like a demand—to do nothing, and it forced me to be more attentive than I ever have. Who knew there is an exposed steel rafter? Why is the Big Room so illuminated? Out of twenty of my peers, who would have thought that almost all of them were getting ahead on their work?
My brain wandered from insignificant details to the reason I was sitting there: group punishment. The purpose of this detention was to ensure that sixty or more of my peers attend school. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how low the bar was. And yet, this punishment was counterproductive.
If I am not alone in my opinion that Wednesday, February 10th from 2:30 to 3:30 was a pleasant and productive experience, I believe there was no punishment at all.
Every five minutes or so, I’d hear a muffled laugh from a student who, like me, was enjoying his detention, but didn’t want Mr. Kolade to find out. My peers would lock eyes, smirk, then turn away. This continued to happen intermittently.
When my computer read “3:30,” and we were free, there was no sense of urgency.
“You’re good,” Mr. Kolade announced, but students finished their paragraphs or problems before getting up. A handful of them remained seated and shared a laugh.
It seemed as though everybody in the Big Room benefitted from detention. I made a few observations, my peers were more focused than I’d ever seen them, and Mr. Kolade had the chance to relax, as nobody made his supervising role overly difficult.
Although I felt trapped in my small glass house for the hour, I did not feel alone. The twenty of us—the same can be said for the other rooms—were unified.
If I am not alone in my opinion that Wednesday, February 10 from 2:30 to 3:30 was a pleasant and productive experience, I believe there was no punishment at all.