When I was six, my class teacher was a Mrs Newman, who was (I think) fairly recently married and had not been in the profession that long.
My problem was that I was a real little chatterbox – and I did not know when to shut up! On this particular day I’m describing, we were having a maths lesson (the fact that I can’t remember any further details probably gives you an idea to how much attention I was paying at the time!) and Mrs Newman stopped talking several times to discipline me.
Eventually, after all these warnings, she looked straight at me and said: “Helen, since you’re so eager to speak, I think you should stay behind after the bell goes for break time, and you and I can have a talk.”
I got a feeling my gut that I was in big trouble, and it certainly had the desired effect of quietening me down. I tried to pay attention to the lesson and be quiet, hoping my better behaviour would get me out of the whole I’d obviously dug myself into.
No such luck. The bell rang and Mrs Newman said: “OK, everybody but Helen, off you go. See you after break.”
The rest of the kids drained out of the classroom, and very soon there was only myself and the teacher left. Eventually, she said: “All right, Helen, come up here to my desk.” I did so, and she turned her own chair around so that she was facing the blackboard and I was at her right side.
“I will not have silly girls like you disrupting my class, and stopping the other children from learning,” she said firmly. “What’s going to make you behave, Helen?” I had the grace to blush slightly and mumbled something like: “Don’t know.”
“Well,” Mrs Newman said, confirming my worst fear, “it’s a smacked bottom for you, I think. Bend over my knee.” Now with slightly wobbly legs, I obeyed, and the next thing I felt was Mrs Newman lifting up the back of my grey school skirt. To my utter relief, she didn’t take my pants down – I think I’d have died if it had been bare bottom – but the thin material of my knickers really made little or no difference to the punishment which followed.
Mrs Newman began to smack my bottom hard and rhythmically. I gave a few little yelps and gasps at the first few smacks, but as the friction on my bottom became too much to bear, I found myself dissolving into full-blown tears.
Mrs Newman smacked much harder than my mum did when I earned it at home, and the spanking went on for quite some time. Just when I thought it would never end, I was stood back on my feet and my skirt fell back down over my now glowing bottom. Mrs Newman led me back to my seat, where I was sat back down most uncomfortably. My teacher took my exercise book and pen for a moment, wrote quickly on a new page and handed it back to me.
At the top of the page was the sentence: “I must not talk in class, or I will be punished.” Mrs Newman said: “You will spend the rest of your break time writing that out – neatly, mind –100 times. If you have not finished by the end of break, you will write the rest of your lines tonight at home. If they are not on my desk first thing in the morning, there will be another smacked bottom but this time in front of the whole class. Do I make myself clear?” Tears still streaming from my eyes, I nodded and began to write.
I had only done about half of the imposition when my classmates began to file back in. Although nothing was said, I’m sure most could guess from my tear-stained face what had happened. Even in the early 80s, corporal punishment was by no means uncommon in both school and home in the UK.
When my mum came to collect me that afternoon, Mrs Newman took us both aside. “I’m afraid there’s been a smacked bottom, Mummy,” she said to my mother. As Mrs Newman told her about my misbehaviour, and the remaining punishment, Mum looked very stern.
She was not at all bothered that my teacher had spanked my bottom. She assured Mrs Newman” “I’ll see she does the rest of her lines.” Then she turned to me with a flushed, angry face. “There’ll be no tea until they’re finished, young lady! And if Mrs Newman has to smack you again, you can expect another one from me when I get you home – and your pants will be coming down for it, too!”
That was the final humiliation, as despite us going to one side, other children and their mothers overheard the conversation, and I received a lot of teasing the next day about having my bottom smacked like a baby.
The experience didn’t entirely cure me of my chatterbox habits in class, but from then on, a single warning from my teachers was usually all it took to quieten me down again.