25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

Punishment at School


L
ast when we looked at how much one could purchase with five cents and ten cents and what lashing one got if he was ever caught stealing ten cents. And the lashing reminded me the various punishments one got at the primary school when there were disciplinary problems at school.

Lashing with a belt was the most common form of punishment and all teachers had their choice of belts quite visible on their tables as a reminder of threat if you want to call it that. The student was asked to extend his hands and got a few cuts on the palms of the hands. Some teachers opted to whip on the arms as well or even on the back of students if they were being rebellious and running away from a teacher. Many principals had the habit of putting the offender over a desk and the whipping was dispensed on the buttocks.

To counter the attack on the buttocks was easy because boys placed one or two exercise books inside their pants to absorb the impact. But teachers were not stupid because they heard the noise created when they hit the books, and when discovered the punishment was doubled. And the wrath of the teacher was intensified, so the force of the whipping was intensified too.

That brings us to the other question. Did teachers whip to discipline or to relieve themselves of stress or anger? Some teachers lashed mildly, and I guess they were conscious that their job was to teach discipline - responsibility, manners, honesty, respect, and values. Others lashed with a fury. You could see that teachers were venting their frustrations on a child that took too long to rehabilitate from his weakness. Many of these victims went home with marks on their bodies and at times some parents visited such teacher to talk things over. However, most parents accepted those marks as the student’s fault and at times imparted another set of whippings on top of that.

Now back to other forms of punishments. There was hitting on the knuckles with the sharp edge of a ruler stick. Ouch, that really hurt. So they say, because I was a good little kid. Others had some type of stick, they called a paddle and that was at times cracked on the back of a kid who was really unruly, and that settled matters really fast. One little gadget that really got students straight and very quickly was a piece of rope called a sash cord. It was a pretty stiff piece of rope used for raising the flag. Instead of a belt, this rope had the effect of making you dance while the whipping was taking place and it usually kept you quiet and well behaved form more than a week.

And, oh yes, some teachers pinched with the sharp nails. Some took your skin between the thumb and index finger and twisted you skin as if peeling an orange. That was mean. Some placed a heavy book on each hand of the offender and he had to extend his hands out. If he brought them down, he was whipped, and usually that is how it ended. Some of us wise cracks brought down our hands immediately and got the whipping and that was it, just a little more embarrassing. Others were put to kneel on bottle caps, but only very rarely. The creative teachers put the offenders to stand at a corner with a dunce cap on his head. We assumed that the word dunce meant that one was dumb or slow in learning.

And the question you might be asking is, “Was the disciplinary method used twenty five years ago better or worse than the methods used today?” As far as students are concerned, they prefer today’s methods. Now I am not totally certain whether teachers are finding today’s methods effective or whether they believe a good spanking was the best way to get a student to cool off and settle down. For that we shall need to ask some teachers. I would like to suggest the Teen Talk Columnist to do us that favor.

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