Saturday, April 18, 2009

Are Teachers Bound by the Geneva Convention?

Sixth Grade at Franklin Elementary School was taught by Mrs. Oswalt and Miss White.

Mrs. Oswalt’s specialty was Math, Miss White’s English.

They both specialized in paddling.

I understand that kids this age are difficult to control – they’re mouthy, resentful of authority, and so distracted by budding hormones it’s a wonder anyone teaches them anything. And, back in the 60’s, corporal discipline was a staple of the teacher’s control arsenal.

But even with those disclaimers, my recollection is that these two were over the top. It wasn’t unusual for the toughest boy in class to return from a hallway paddling session wiping tears from his eyes. One time they paddled Danny Brumley so hard his pants split and he had to tie Terri Wikoff’s sweater around his waist so his undies wouldn’t show.

Other people from my age group have similar recollections. My first husband (aka Clueless Young Husband) used to talk about sitting in his classroom with a bunch of his friends one day, waiting for school to start, when his teacher came charging into the room, grabbed him by the neck and slammed him up against a wall. The teacher started screaming at him about something he’d done. Another kid was finally able to convince the teacher that CYH wasn’t the right target. The teacher dropped CYH and went storming off in search of the new suspect.

And Tom (of Tim and Tom fame) went to a three-story school elementary school with an open space in the center. Once, a teacher held him backwards by the throat over that thirty-foot drop. “I could feel my weight shifting toward my shoulders,” he said. “I would have confessed to anything.”

Note: To this day I bless Miss White for instilling the fundamentals of good grammar in my head. I can still recite the helping verbs (is, are, was, were, am, be, been…) and pick out the object of the complex sentence in the world.

But then, I never got paddled.


  1. Even in my day, corporal punishment was still on the outs. I went to a religious kindergarten, where my parents had to sign a waiver allowing paddling at the teacher's discretion. Can you imagine that going over nowadays?

    I also learned perfect spacing between words, thanks to a fear of being hit.

  2. I added up the times I got clipped slapped, or paddled.. the first year I did not get physically smacked was 11th grade... In ninth grade we had a snowball fight in home room.. 1st hour a red headed female home room teacher came looking for me- we'd been ratted out... She had a stump for a left arm- no hand on it, but a forearm... She wailled on me with a stump of an arm- like it was a Billy club..

  3. I had to think about 'paddling' there - In the UK that usually means walking at the edge of the sea, getting your feet wet up to your ankles... Sorry about my stupidity!

    But what tales! The horrible discipline, and that child practically held over a ravine! How did they get away with it?!

  4. I think back on that crap from grade school (public school) and am amazed that it actually went on. I remember kids getting smacked with a paddle right over the teacher's desk in front of the whole class. And exactly what was that supposed to teach us?

  5. Oh - corporal punishment is a terrible thing and has no place in schools.

    Just sayin'...

  6. I can't even imagine corporal punishment in school.


  7. I remember Miss White well. The day she paddled the Chapman brothers consecutively, we were in awe as, I swear, her feet would literally leave the ground on the backswing. My only paddling came from the Principal, Mrs. Sue Beeghley. Wavy,World War 2 hairsytle, those thin lips with the really dark lipstick, catseye glasses, and a stare so cold it could bring an iceberg back from global warming.

    I lived across the street from the school and was enduring a crossfire of snowballs from two of my hoodlum friends. The rule was NO throwing snowballs to and from school. I waited, taking a sloshy pounding, until I was through the gate and in my own front yard. Now on legal ground, I defended myself bravely. Mrs. Beeghley was watching from a classroom window. The next morning I was summoned to the big office. My defense plea was simple: "I was defending myself." Humiliation, WHACK, a sting, WHACK, another sting... but no tears.

    The best part was that my little sister, Cindy, stood up for me to Mom and Dad. She always thought I had been wrongly punished. This became a blessing in later years when she and her pal, Kathy, got caught shoplifting at the local department store. I broke the story of her crime to Mom and Dad first, because Cindy wanted to make sure it was safe for her to come back home that day.

    Those two whacks gave me the gift of a sister's compassion. Some things just work out for the best.

  8. I am glad I was the quiet shy girl that always sat in the back of class :)

  9. I remember the strap. Not personally, because I was always extremely well behaved...but all the other kids getting it. I remember it being stopped in Grade 3 or 4, after Terry Hum got it one too many times. Ahh, the memories.

  10. i was kicked out of algebra so many times, i had my name etched in the hardwood floor.

    THAT took talent.

  11. Once in Kindergarten I got slapped across the side of my head so hard I temporarily lost hearing in that ear. Some teachers are just too crazy to be teaching.

  12. Stuff of nightmares. I'm going to vomit now.

    I am so glad I was able to learn simply because I had good teachers rather than the bone chilling fear of being hit.

  13. Although we have possibly veered too far to the point of allowing kids to get my with too much, I shudder to remember those paddling days.

  14. The board of education. I remember it well!

  15. I think i got paddled once in the 3rd grade for wearing a dress that was too short (like I had any control over my wardrobe in those days - mid-1960's!). Back then, we wore what we had and liked it!
    Jeanne, I miss you! Reading your blog brings back such good memories of my friend. I'm sorry I blew it,

  16. I always wanted to be one who could pick out the object of the complex sentence. Instead I got paddled....sadly I first got the cane when I was in kindergarten for dropping the box of quizzinaire rods (which you probably dont know what these are - they were different colours and sizes which corresponded with a number and helped us with maths). that first caning set me off on the wrong times have changed. Teachers these days cannot even put thir hand on a child's arm. We didnt turn out so badly even if my grammar and math still sucks!

  17. It is a very different world now.

    The other day I was at the playground, standing with the other moms watching the kids play. The girls, including my daughter, were pulling Sean around. It was getting a little out of control, so I whistled loudly and then yelled, Knock it off!

    The other moms were a little nervous by my rather forthright response, so I said, why waste everyone's time? The girls stopped and I think the moms were glad. But it did feel like I crossed some kind of PC bullshit.

  18. I was just telling my kids the other day about how each teacher in my Texas public schools had a paddle mounted above the chalkboard - and wasn't afraid to use it. The tougher cases were sent to the vice principal for "swats."

    We all took the idea in stride, though. I never heard any discussion about whether it was too harsh. It just *was.*

    Boy, you should have seen my kids' faces when they heard this! Har!

    :^) Anna

  19. A teacher would get killed here if they dared paddle a child. The kid would probably draw a knife.

    Glad you escaped corporal punishment.

  20. The object of a complex sentence? Thank goodness I know who to call in a crisis! ;-)

  21. Thankfully I come from a generation where this sort of thing was already against the law. I can't imagine how it must have been for you all.

  22. We could have been in the same class, I recall seeing a teacher hold a kid up against the blackboard by his neck.

    I was VERY well behaved in school after that.

    Schools all need a revamp today though.

    You know what? Your post gave me a 'ping' moment Jeannie. Stay tuned, children are going to benefit from the idea that came to me while thinking about your post, (so you are in part to thank for it). :)

  23. Wow! I never ran into any teachers like that...but the grammar lessons are familiar! :)

  24. two words if they did that today: lawsuit (and) Jail.

    times have changed A LOT

  25. I remember in my early elem years... kids getting pulled into the hallway, the dead silence of the classroom as every one strained to hear the paddle as it would whiz through the air and crack onto the offender's butt.

    I never got paddled... had too many other problems to be a problem, I guess.

    But I don't remember anything like the violent episodes you described.

    We've come a long way, baby.

  26. The classrooms used to get deathly quiet, then you heard the explosions of anger in the hall and bodys being slammed against lockers..always seemed to be the boys too. That was in high school in the late 1960's. In grade school the principal had a yard stick with a red bow on it..he used it..I used to feel so sorry for the kids that got hit with it. We had one teacher who would rap your fingers with a ruler..
    My Parents always told me If I got punished in school I would get double punishment at home. They were of the old school "Spare the rod and spoil the child".. I got my share..but never at school :(


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