Relationships above rules

2017-07-25 06:00

Detention is such a waste of time.

Yes, of course it is! So why do we persist with it? Because detention is for those who are never in it!


Around 70% of my teens are never in detention – ever. Most of the rest are in just once a year.

The mere knowledge that there are consequences and there is structure is enough of a deterrent for them.

Until you have been in detention more than a couple of times I am really not interested – there is enough pressure on teens as it is. I tell my high achievers that I should put them all in detention to help them overcome the “dishonour”. It really is not such a big deal. However, when a teen has been placed in detention 23 times then it says more about us than it does about the teen.

Einstein said insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If all we have is a hammer we will see every challenge as a nail.

The purpose of discipline is to change behaviour, not to punish it. We walk a tightrope between those whose mantra is “The discipline is not tough enough, the school is going to the dogs” and those who say “We need more empathy and compassion.” Neither is adequate as a stand-alone response.

Our quiet conviction at Fish Hoek High is that “rules without relationship breed resentment”. We spend considerable time educating as to why your individual behaviour is problematic.

Sadly, it is no longer a given that all teens know why they are in the wrong. Don’t get me wrong – if you fail to understand, despite our efforts, then you will still be held accountable.

Our approach is restorative. If your behaviour has damaged a relationship then part of your sanction will be to fix that relationship: You are going to sit with me and allow Ms X to tell you just how offensive your behaviour was, before apologising.

The message is not that I don’t like you, but that I don’t like your behaviour. You messed up and you need to fix it. Yes, your actions will bring you some heat, but I will still greet you warmly in the corridor.

Gavin Fish, Fish Hoek High School ­principal

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