I was talking with someone today and the subject of discipline in the schools came up. She said that she had just read somewhere that human rights groups are calling for the banning of corporal punishment after a recent finding that shows the practice is still widely prevalent in the country today. I had no idea!
There are many places, apparently, that still practice this archaic enforcement of discipline, most notably in the poor, rural south. Mississippi has the highest percentage. It's so sad, really.
But this post isn't about corporal punishment in the present, but rather in my personal past. And it brought up a funny, although a bit disturbing memory for me. I have a lot of disturbing memories but for the most part, I'm over them.
My friend had asked me if I had ever been punished in school and immediately I answered that no, I hadn't. But then, I remembered that I had indeed. I must have buried this memory but it came pouring back. Oh, the horror.
When I was in the sixth grade, I attended a Catholic school in Somers Point, NJ. We were taught by sisters and also by lay teachers. But, for the most part, it was the sisters who were our teachers. And the nun I had for sixth grade, Sister Agatha, was a piece of work.
I did not like Sister Agatha. None of us did. She was not a happy person and always had a scowl on her face. She assigned seats on a monthly basis and one month, I was the unhappy recipient of the desk directly in the front of the room at the beginning of the middle row. A most unfortunate seating arrangement, because we all knew that this was the person that would receive most of her wrath.
I was a good little Catholic girl in grade school, for the most part, because I knew if I went out of line, my parents would hear of it and I'd be in even worse trouble. But one day, Sister Agatha let me have it. Her name evoked something wicked and for a long time, I disliked the letter "A".
I remember sitting in my seat, working on something, when sister asked a question. No one was raising their hand, but I thought I knew the answer. Unfortunately, the boy she called on in the back row said something very funny and I made the mistake of laughing. And before I knew it (and this is the absolute truth) I was pulled BY MY HAIR out of my chair and THROWN TO THE FLOOR.
Think about that for a minute. Could you see this happening in your child's school today? I don't think so.
I was not what you'd call a strong-willed child, but I had a backbone and knew what was right and what was wrong for a teacher to do and I felt a righteous indignation at what she had done to me. With all my might, I got to my feet, put my hands on my hips and said in my loudest voice, "How dare you treat me like that by throwing me to the floor! My mother is the president of the PTA and she's going to hear about this tonight."
I was promptly told to shut my mouth and sit back down in my seat. Which I did, immediately. They had paddy sticks, too, and I didn't want one of them used on me.
That night, of course I told my mother, who was on the phone immediately to Mother Superior. And the following day, before class began, Mother Superior and Sister Agatha were waiting for me and there was an apology from the teacher.
I didn't trust this apology, and rightly so, because sister Agatha, well she got me back. She humiliated me in front of the whole class.
Men, you may want to stop reading, because this is just a little bit personal. And I know you don't enjoy stories about women's things. But it so happened that directly after this little fiasco, I well, got something. And my mother (bless her, damnit) came to see sister Agatha to ask her to let me use the bathroom as often as needed. You see, sister Agatha didn't believe in letting her pupils use the bathroom outside of designated bathroom breaks. But I needed to visit it more than once a day for a few days and my mother took up my cause and asked for this favor. Isn't this freaking ridiculous?
Anyway, sister condescended to allowing me to visit the restroom and later that morning, when our math lesson was finished, she cleared her throat and announced to the entire class, "now put your math book away while Kathleen takes her visit to the ladies room. Go ahead, Kathleen, do what you need to do and don't forget your purse."
My God in heaven, I was mortified. The boys all found out what it was all about and teased me in the recess yard, the morons. And damn that nun. This was my life in sixth grade.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Photo courtesy Olahus at Flickr.com