Going too far

I attended a school in the Midlands of England, in the late 70s/early 80s when corporal punishment existed, but was being phased out gradually.

Only the headmaster at the upper school (for kids aged 14 to 16) and headmistress of the lower school (11 to 14) were allowed to administer the cane on boys and the slipper (actually a PE plimsoll) on the girls.

When anybody was caned or slippered, the news spread quickly around the school. In my five years, maybe two dozen boys received the cane and even fewer girls the slipper. In our form group of around 30, just two of the boys to my knowledge were given the cane and only one girl was ever slippered, for playing truant in the final year.

Punishments were always carried out in the sanctity of the headmaster’s or headmistress’s office. Because it was applied rarely, and never seen by others, there was a mystique about the cane – less so the plimsoll, because we all knew what it looked like and could imagine the level of pain.

Invariably, the threat would be enough to stem bad behaviour – I wonder if this was always the case when it was used as regularly as older people remember?

Unfortunately, I became the first of our class to be caned when I was 13. Our German teacher was particularly weak in maintaining discipline – or so I thought. I went too far with my cheek during a lesson and clearly she had had enough.

Even when she told me to stay behind at the end of the lesson, I didn’t think it would be anything worse than a few lines or detention, the commonest punishment of the day. Instead, to my surprise, as break time began she told me we were going to see the headmistress.

Everything seemed to happen quickly after that. The headmistress listened to the teacher, I could offer no excuse and after the telling off which I anticipated, she amazed and frightened me by fetching the cane from a cupboard.

It was the first time I had seen it. It was longer than I imagined and to this day, I remember my legs turning to jelly. I had to bend over as far as I could and in the presence of the teacher, the headmistress whacked me three times on the bottom. The pain of the first stroke took me by surprise and I was crying all through a second lecture and still when I left the room.

It did the trick, though, because I didn’t misbehave to anything like that extent ever again.

Contributor: Richard

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