Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why somehow wanting to write about students sitting in a circle ended up being more about getting a good thrashing.

The Panopticon defined by Wiki as: a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience." Hmm, I thought - I could use that. Perhaps I've been watching too many episodes of Lost. But it was a late night thought I had. Teaching too many students. Too many students that like using mobile phones and engaging in random chitterchat. I often dream of prison systems. Of teaching in a Total Institution.

Well okay, I jest, just slightly, but an owl-like revolving head and cctv cameras in my elbows might be a good idea. But then, I'm not sure I really want to know. Sometimes it's best to just let a few things slide. Hmmm. I'll never be like my maths teacher at school. He never did anything other than look at us. And yet he had the reputation as the scariest, most dangerously fearsome teacher in the school. I always had my homework in on time and rarely spoke in his lessons so that's probably why I don't know quite how scary he was. I remember him standing in the doorway and people chitterchattering. And suddenly the room going quiet as quickly as if a light had gone on. One kid with his back to the door, suddenly realising that he was the only one standing up and talking. Freezing. Dying inside. Realising all too late. 500 lines.

It clearly wasn't just the lines though. He had scary charisma. And a drole sense of humour that occasionally popped out - but I was neither bright enough to appreciate it or able to control my bladder and facial muscles enough in his presence to let myself ever think about anything other than quadratic equations. Fear. An all boys school - not a public school but one of the still existing Grammar Schools in Northern England.

Compare that to the physics teacher that threw things. Board rubbers, chalk, and weirdly a collection of plimsolls he kept behind his big physics desk at the front of the class. Although not so weirdly as he used the rubber soled plimsoll to smack people with. Yeah, they still did the caning, strapping, smacking thing when I was at school. I think by then it was a bit more regulated - well it was supposed to be. But Physics teacher didn't give a feck. Mess him about - stay behind. Get "the whack". I think he favoured the bottom. But he was known to do the hand as well.

It seems weird that I'm not a thousand years old. Although, perhaps I am. But the idea of spanking 15 year old boys on the botty nowadays seems as wrong as wrong can be. Well from my perspective as an adult. Although I really don't think there was anything mucky about the whole thing. From the physics teachers perspective anyway. He was a big angry fellow with chalk stained trousers and felt that he needed total discipline. If you looked out of the window. Chalk or the board rubber would come flinging your way. I got hit on the head a few times.

It could, obviously have taken someone's eye out. *Health & Safety Issues*. It really does feel like another era. I really can't imagine a parent complaining - unless of course someone had lost an eye. Then there might have been the odd quiet voice raised. But then my mum would have been too accepting. She would have said it was one of those things, you had to put up with it. She was taught by nuns so any flying board rubbers were pretty much nothing to worry about. Her brother wanted to be left-handed and got daily beatings by the monks at school. He was very good at art but probably dyslexic. Except that hadn't been invented yet. And in those sort of schools it probably still hasn't. I think dyslexia is rated somewhere to the left of homosexuality on the list of *Things That Make No Sense And Are Not To Be Mentioned.*

No one was mentioning my 'learning issues' when I was getting 1/20 in spelling tests. (The lad next to me saw me copying after the first question - so did that elbow coving his answers thing to stop me copying any more). But never mind, I went on to fail my English O level. I was just not very good at spelling and needed to learn the words better. Ahhh, those happy days of detention and the strap.

The geography teacher was a *funny* one. He was reputed to wear a toupee, and it was also reputed that he had a 'winter wig' and a 'summer wig'. People said his hair could grow overnight. Someone claimed to have seen his wig when on a geography field trip, but given the teacher's very flirtatious, joking manner, and allegedly gayness - no story could ever be really believed. Like the gayness it was part of his myth. As was his proclivity for giving boys the strap. In private. I don't know if that ever happened. He seemed very laidback. But there were all sorts of stories. A boy's dad was reported to have complained and had a fight with him. But that might have resulted more from anti-gay paranoia 'get your hands off my boy' than any reality. I don't know.

Discipline and where to draw the line. It's difficult. Even more so with adults because they are making the choice to be there - and they can also make the choice to go, "You know what? Forget it. You're an idiot. How dare you tell me what to do." And leave in a hail of swearwords. And Lord knows colleges don't like to lose students. Students = funding = part of your job performance as teacher.

So the obviously scary fellows were alright. They could do what they wanted. Although it may already have been on the edges of the 'rules' back then.

Certainly when it was my turn to get the strap in the 5th form - age 15 - the Head Teacher asked me if I wanted it to be 'official' which would involve the Deputy Head being present and it going down on my school record or if I wanted him to do it unofficially. "I know you're not a bad boy," he said as I gulped and shuddered and sweated. How I had enjoyed that 15 minute wait outside the headmaster's study. And the look on the faces of the two boys that went in before me and came out in tears. Lovely.

I agreed to him giving me the strap 'unofficially'. 6 of the best. Lovely. What a glorious phrase!!!

Six of the best. The strap being a belt basically. Worse than the cane by those that knew from experience. As the strap would wrap around your bot. Slap it rather than whack it. And just to make it even more lovely - the strap had a slit down the middle for its final 5 inches so that the two pieces of leather would separate and separately slap you.

It hurt. And he said I was to go back to classes. And being a boy I was trying not to cry. The pain in my head as dreadful as the arching, aching pain from my botty. And ironically it was physics next. I walked in and apologised for being late. The teacher told me to hurry up and sit down. They all knew what was going on but no one said anything. They didn't want to get a board rubber on their bonce. And then I did start my weeping. Except I think it was accepted. No one was going to have a go.

And my crime, yes, my misdemeanour that caused me to get the strap on that day. I went to the chippy every day to get my healthy portion of chips, gravy, sausage and batter scrapings. Before coming back and playing football for the next 50 minutes. Except on this day the Headmaster had decided to have a crack down and parked his car near the chippy and did spot checks on who had a official pass to leave the school grounds at lunchtime. I didn't. Hence the beating.

I'd like to say it taught me a lesson, but being the contrary little b'stard I was. I went to the chippy or somewhere else every lunchtime after. Without a pass. I wanted him to catch me again. Just to show that I could take it. That is how you grow up to be a man, I guess. But it wouldn't stop me doing the 'crime'. I know there was a punk lad in the year above me who used to moan and make s3xy noises when he got the cane. I'm sure that was disconcerting for the Head. You don't expect those sort of noises from a boy. It may have lead to the punky lad's expulsion soon after. His hair was a bit of a disgrace on the school after all...

Now where was I. I got lost in a haze of indulgent memories. So really, all I want to do is be a little more listened to. Have a little bit more attention paid. But it's not like I didn't gaze out of the window "in my day" & have a board wiper lugged at me. I will have to rely on the power of words and a variety of different seating arrangements to keep everything under control. The circle worked very well. I think that was all I intended to say. Umm. I better go off and do 500 lines, "I must not whine self-indulgently about the olden days." Now that WAS a good teaching aid. Repeating lines lots and lots of times. It taught you to find a smaller bully-able boy to force to do the writing for you. Nowadays you'd press copy and paste a few times. I bet detention still works. I hated detention. It was so booooooooooooooring. A teenage hates nothing more than boredom.


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