We’ve just returned from an agreeable Nature Ramble and some chums have acquired tadpoles and frogs and doused them in powder paints and set them hopping about all over the classroom. I’m the ringleader and find it all most amusing. I will simply not shut up. Yak! Yak! Yak! I’m ruining the lesson.
Miss Weston has really had enough and puts me in the corner and sticks Band Aid plasters across my yapping gob. It does shut me up, apart from an odd mewling noise. She does her best not to giggle. The lesson proceeds in peace. My parents are with her all the way. Well done! But Miss Weston’s behaviour is wrong – morally, physically, psychologically, philosophically. It can induce trauma in the tender infant mind.
But it never did me any harm and I still don’t blame her.
We’re in March 2014, in Danefield Church of England School in Somerset. A teacher is alleged to have put sticky tape over children’s mouths. Wrong again. Unequivocally. Bad Practice and an index of gross incompetence.
But not as bad as my old school, the RGS High Wycombe, many of whose teachers practised “traditional violence” on the inmates, involving things like canes, slippers, plimsolls, desk lids and board dusters on skulls, ear-yanking, single hair extraction and random sadism.
They belonged to what Nigel Molesworth calls the “this is not going to hurt me as much as it hurts you” school of behaviour management. It probably did me harm. It’s always wrong – and is now thankfully criminal
But I’ve nearly been there too. There’ve been times when I’ve imagined visiting extreme prejudice on the more hard core villains – wind-up artists, saboteurs, wise guys, thugs, rent-a-mouths, sadists and Dave Mania and Sidney Lunk at full throttle.
My liberal nerves twitched and I wanted to go medieval on their persons. Thankfully, I never did. I left the room and did some Zen breathing. Anyway, I would have probably ended up in intensive care.
I sometimes sent for Mr Grimes, an “old school” disciplinarian. He would come in and do psychosis and threaten to “play coconuts with your heads behind the bike sheds!”
Have you ever lost it? Like the teacher in Somerset allegedly did? It’s always wrong. Always. But, somehow, the divine Miss Weston was right – and I still fell sorry.