Did your school expose your bottom? Are you a monster yet?

Fifteen-year old Taylor Santos topped US headlines recently. Or rather her bottom did, which was paddled by her male vice principal. Some are now demanding that a teacher of the same sex should deliver the spanking, that too in the presence of a third person.

Whoa! Is this school life we are talking about? When did it get so complicated?

I know there is this debate about corporal punishment. Spare the rod and spoil the child versus perpetuating the cycle of violence and, possibly, creating a monster. I am not getting into that. No one likes punishment; why complicate it even more?

Punishment? Yes. Bare bottoms? No.

Let us go back to a simple school, in a simple place at simpler times.

I studied in a school, where some bottoms were invariably exposed, but only because treacherous buttons and safety pins could not take the joyous rough and tumble of everyday school life.Adult beating child with cane on palm

We could never imagine our teachers without their favorite tools of punishment—a sleek cane or a thick wooden ruler was the most common. Some used their thumb and forefinger to squeeze repentance out of tender ear lobes.

There was always this war between teachers and student but it was always heartily warm, never nuclear cold. I suspect the tool (and its occasional use) was a deterrent.

Take George Sir, for example. I don’t remember what he taught us. I remember him sitting on his chair, facing the class, reading the day’s newspaper. Try any mischief and instantly a piece of chalk would land smack on your head. We were sure he had X-ray vision, until someone discovered strategic holes in the newspaper. Before he left the class, he would line up the remaining pieces of chalk and flick those one by one out of the window. How we admired his aim!A piece of chalk

Caned shins and rapped knuckles

Govind Sir was a newcomer and preferred the cane. He relied on surprise and speed. He would stand in front of you, asking you a question. The moment you answered wrong, his cane would whistle through the air and catch you below the knee.

He lost the advantage of surprise in a day or two. We started dodging the cane with some well-timed twists and jumps. If he persisted, a great show of pain would follow, rolling on the floor in agony, tears staining the floor. I am sure some of my classmates went on to do well in professional football.

We hated Sheela Teacher for her method of punishment. She taught us mathematics and she had a thing for good handwriting. Get your number wrong or fail to write neat and she would use the thick edge of our wooden ruler on our knuckles. It didn’t help if we forgot to bring our ruler. Satya was always ready with his. We hated him too, at least during her class.

Then Chathu happened to Sheela Teacher.

Enter the son of the cowherd

Chathu had joined the class in the middle of the year. Rumor was that he was a cowherd’s son. He left the cows from the village to graze on top of the hill before he ran down to catch school. On the way, he would pick up something to eat—berries, a raw mango or two, some tamarind pods.

His clothes were always torn and dirty and never of his size. His appearance never mattered to us but the goodies he brought, did. He always shared.

Pod of tamarindOne day, he could not resist taking out a delicious pod of tamarind and licking it. Unfortunately, it was during Sheela Teacher’s class. She was on him in a flash, pulled him up by ear and asked him to produce whatever he was eating. Chathu was dumbstruck and just stood there hanging by his ear.

After this little incident, she started paying more attention to Chathu. He had a great head for figures. While the rest of us stumbled through the mysteries of long division, Chathu’s joys multiplied under the teacher’s close attention. Soon, he became Sheela Teacher’s favorite, much to Satya’s chagrin.

One day, Chathu landed in class without doing his homework. “I forgot,” he mumbled. A resounding slap was the answer. Fighting tears that would not stop flowing, Chathu sobbed out the truth, His father was not keeping well. He had to do extra work. On top of it, a cow had trampled on his foot. It had swollen up. He was not able to sleep. In the morning, he had to get up and do whatever chores his father was supposed to do. In all this, he just did not have the time to do his homework.

The teacher asked him to show his leg. He lifted his barefoot, dark, dirty and very swollen. He winced as he put it back down. We all looked at the teacher expecting another slap. We were shocked. She was crying.Face of boy

We found it rather funny. There was Chathu, crying uncontrollably. And there was the teacher, tears flowing down her cheeks, asking him to stop crying. She managed to ask him, “Have you eaten?” Chathu shook his head. She led him out of the classroom.

We had no tabloids to scream about the inhuman treatment meted out to a helpless little boy. No glossy magazine sang praises of a lone woman, a poor teacher, who went on to adopt countless children, beginning with Chathu, ensuring that they ate at least one square meal a day and completed their school education.

You will do fine, Santos

Taylor Santos, I am sorry you had this terrible experience. I can understand your pain and shame. I shared some memories with you, Santos, in the hope it would make you feel a little better.

Those were simple times. We lacked many things, including the stress and strain you must be facing.

I am sure you will do well and this incident will be just a bad memory, soon. If it is any consolation, after all those chalks on heads, canes on shins and rulers on knuckles, none of us has turned into a monster, yet. We have lived happily ever after. You will, too, Santos.


22 thoughts on “Did your school expose your bottom? Are you a monster yet?”

  1. I agree with your views regarding corporal punishment. Our school life was fun too with all its punishments. However, I always got away with a simple stand out of class, or stand on the concrete dustbin in class. The The The

  2. The only major punishment I got was writing the lyrics of a song 10 times because I had not memorized it before going for the singing class. More than my teachers, my parents meted out severe punishments. I would never eat my lunch or throw away my breakfast down the kitchen balcony when Mom was not l,looking. The consequence was to eat the thrown food after washing it first and a good beating with an empty powder can. I think that is the only punishment I have received from Mom. With Dad, was a different story. Have always been his sweetheart so have been punished by him only twice. Once as a toddler: I climbed up onto the dining table at lunch. Consequence: was exposed to intense heat of a lighter for a nano second. I had learnt my lesson, never sit ON a table always AT a table. The second time I was smaked real hard again by Daddy dearest but I would not blame him for that. It was my mistake and a rather grave one which could have put him behind bars. I was travelling with my Dad on his merchant vessel which was ferrying petroleum from some European country to Singapore. Although we had discharged and the tanks were empty, the air still had the lingering scents of petrol. Another girl on vacation ( the second engineer’s daughter) and I were curious about how a cigarette lighter works. We were lucky to find one lying unattended in the crew smoke room. Eager as we were, we found some old magazines lying around and in all our curiosity lit them one by one to create a bonfire in the crew smoke room. A little smoke is sufficient to send off the fire alams on oil tanker vessels. Dad managed to get us out of the room, had her sent to her Dad’s cabin, took me to our cabin and gave me the hardest smack he could have ever given me. My back stung with his hard blow. But I had to take it….after all it was my fault. I had put the lives of all 32 people on board the ship in danger.
    Well, I guess that is the ony punnishment I have received so far in life.
    I guess the smack from Dad changed me for good!!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Dr Komal. Not many can claim to have tried to set a merchant vessel on fire! Interesting to note that you do not hold any grudge against “Daddy dearest”. Well, we too must thank him for giving us the “good” Komal!

  3. Your story sounds very much like those from my school. Obviously you were from another school, for one we had no lady teachers, and then none of our teachers ever cried.

  4. That sounds pretty much like my school. In my fourth grade, I was terrified of two teachers who would rap us on the knuckles with wooden rulers. But one never held any grudge against the teachers, it was part and parcel of school life. Was I the worse for it…not really. But, would I want my daughter to experience the same at her school…no, I don’t think so! Maybe we should stop at punishments like kneeling down and standing in a corner:-)

    1. Thanks for sharing, Sarita. Maybe at the time of admission, parents should be given a menu of punishments to choose from? 🙂 I agree it is difficult to accept the idea of our child being put through some punishment.

  5. spare the rod & spoil the child , was the norm in our times & i fully endorse it. since i was very mischevious my hindi sir made me a monitor & then i learnt the art of leadership.

  6. A very strange , obnoxious , out of blue thot just struck me as I am about to keyboard – If corporal punishment is justified for kids not doing homework etc and many other reasons, why this does not hold good for adults ? Should the boss slap , hit you on knuckles, ask you to kneel down at your cubicle if you fail to achieve targets, not complete assignments on time ? Anyways this sounds a lot over the top, but that is what came to my mind.

    I am not a believer of corporal punishment either at school ( temples of education ) nor at home. At the current standards of teaching / parenting , with teachers of suspicious credentials and parents with little patience and time , these methods are more often used to create fear and dissuade rather than any instill any sense of discipline. A read of a weeks newspaper and we find cases of “so called teachers / parents” trying to “teach the kids a lesson” and which end up with the kid in hospital and the teacher / parent in the police station! Today we talk about adults being given “social service assignments” when they slip on to the wrong side of law…then why such harsh methods on tender minds and bodies who have been entrusted to us by god. I found a comment by one of the readers interesting on how the kid was given responsibilities of monitoring a class as punishment which resulted in developing some amount of leadership… why should not the teachers / parents have the responsibility of finding out such methods rather than dubious / quick-fixes like corporal methods? Its worth pondering.

    Not to forget the negative impact on the child from corporal punishment – “if he wants to get something done he can also use a scale or hand ” and get it done.

    1. Interesting thought, Harish. Imagine the child being sent home for not doing homework, the father being sent home for not completing the project and the mother refusing to take them in because they had no business to be home at that time.

  7. i do not remember being punished by my school teachers… if at all i was punished it was in a group..if someone had done some mischief and not owned it!!it may standing outside the class room or writing something”n” number of times…but what i do remember is getting whacked by my mother for things which she obviously didn’t want me to do or some unacceptable behaviour. i was a rebellion and she she was a hard core confirmist so she would want me to be “in line”.i took it all in my stride as i knew what she did was to make me a ‘good human being ‘.
    i do not endorse corporal punishment . punishment is important but not with the stick.sometimes scars on the body remain imprinted on the mind and grudges make a person look at the world in a negative light… unless one is mature enough to reflect on why a certain incidence happened the way it happened .
    investing time in the child will help one find the cause of the child’s behaviour. as i see it two factors are at work… there are teachers or people who like controlled environment and like to control everything ie teacher’s personality … and secondly the frustration being vented out at the students because of what is happening to them in personal life.. so a michief by student is just the: last straw”


  8. This is a very very heartwarming post. Yes, I do yearn for that simpler time in a simpler world. I went to a missionary girls’ school and had my own experiences of the nuns’ generosity as well as their little bags of tricks 🙂

    Thanks for bringing back those memories. Best wishes for the festive season…

  9. As everything else, corporal punishment meted out by a responsible punisher can do more good than harm. Children need to know where the boundaries are, and sometimes a good rap on the knuckles can do wonders where time outs and tones of admonishment don’t make a dent.

    Of course, I say this only because I’m on the other side of the rod these days 😃

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