Paying the Price
Glancing around the room, I laid eyes on students I didn’t even realize attended my school. They were the ones who skated on the periphery of high school society. Mostly, I think, because they spent the majority of their time behind the school, smoking. And yet, there we were together. In detention.
Judging by the ease with which they handled the stern, and rather nonsensical, rules of detention, it was apparent that they were lifers. I, on the other hand, was a detention novice. Which was made perfectly clear from the moment I sat down towards the front of the room and promptly placed my school binder on the desk. After all, the time shouldn’t be a complete waste, I figured.
Warden: And just what do you think you’re doing, young lady?
FrumeSarah: I thought it made sense to work on my math while sitting here this afternoon.
Warden: You thought? Well, you thought wrong. Put it away.
FrumeSarah: What about writing in my journal?
Warden: No writing in detention.
FrumeSarah: May I read a book?
…snickers from the other students…
Warden: What do you think this is? Study Hall? You’re in detention, young lady, and you will sit here and do nothing until I say you can leave. Is that clear?
So let me get this straight. My punishment for skipping one period of school was to languish in detention and NOT have access to any school work or pleasure reading? For three afternoons? As my colleague and dear friend, PGR, is fond of saying “What’s the goal?” I mean, really. Were they actually afraid that students would commit an infraction because they desired an opportunity to do school work while in detention? Conversely, from the looks of things, it certainly didn’t seem as though sitting for an hour in silence and without engaging in any meaningful work was much of a deterrent.
Let me be clear; I was deserving of a consequence. I had willingly and knowingly skipped third period. I had been up very late the night before, studying for first period, and by the end of third period, could no longer keep open my eyes. It would have been rude to fall asleep in Mr. Riley’s, z”l, class. Not to mention counter-productive. And so I went to my car, climbed in the back, and went to sleep for fifty-five minutes. Unable to produce a readmit the following day, I was given a one-way ticket to detention.
Unlike the helicopter-style of parenting, my parents operated under the premise that The School (administration, individual teacher, etc.) was the ultimate authority unless guilty of a action so egregious that it required some type of intervention. Otherwise, The School was in the right and we children were in the wrong. It was, quite truly, a great way to teach respect for authority and for rules. I had broken the rule. Though I had broken it for a very admirable reason, I had not followed proper procedure and was, therefore, deserving of punishment.
So last week, desperate for sleep, I climbed in the back of my car. Emerging fifty-five minutes later, I had the same sense of engaging in some forbidden activity. Only this time, no detention.
This week’s edition of Haveil Havalim is live over at Letters of Thought.