I went to a mixed comprehensive school in the 1980s where corporal punishment mainly consisted of the slipper, a plimsoll in other words, or very rarely the cane. Only the headmaster and deputy headmistress were allowed to cane, but all teaching staff were allowed to slipper if they chose to do so. About 80%, male and female, of teachers did have a slipper tucked away in a drawer of their desk.
The headmaster caned the boys and the deputy headmistress was said to cane the girls, although no one remembered that ever happening. Mrs B, the deputy headmistress, was a large woman who ruled her classes quite strictly and who stood no nonsense. When I first laid eyes on her and before I’d even spoken to her I immediately labelled her an ogre. Even though I was rarely in trouble anyway, I took extra care never to do anything that might get me the cane from her.
Most punishments consisted of detention or writing lines. Detentions were one hour long and served on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after school. I got one detention when I was 14 for forgetting to bring my homework to a mathematics class and it wasn’t very pleasant. There were five of us, all of different ages, and we just had to sit in a classroom staring at the wall in front of us. We weren’t allowed to speak or read or do anything. On three occasions during my schooldays I was given lines to write, and on all those times it was when the teacher wanted to punish the whole class. I hated writing lines, partly because it was boring and partly because I didn’t want my parents to know I was being punished, so it was hard to do them at home without them finding out.
We occasionally saw a boy ordered out to the front of the class, where he had to bend over and get 1, 2 or 3 whacks of the slipper across the seat of his trousers, but that never seemed to happen to the girls.
In my second year, when I was 12, I found a packet of cigarettes when I wandered onto the playing fields one lunchtime. I didn’t know who dropped them, but I was tempted to pick them up and, rather than hand them in to a teacher straight away, I put them in my briefcase with the intention of trying one, just to see what they were like. Of course, I didn’t own a lighter so I would have to ‘borrow’ some matches when I got home and maybe go for a walk using some pretext or other.
Of course, I soon got caught. One of the female teachers on lunch duty had seen me pick up the cigarettes and put them in my bag. I was told Mrs B would send for me during the afternoon. In fact, it was only during the last ten minutes, when we were in our own form room for the end of school register and our form master was reading out several notices that he looked directly at me and told me to report to Mrs B’s classroom straight away.
It was just before four o’clock and of course everyone was looking at me as I picked up my bag and left the form room. The corridor was deserted and I soon reached Mrs B’s classroom. She didn’t have a form to look after, so her room was completely empty, apart from her sitting at her desk reading from a piece of A4 paper, or foolscap as we knew it back then.
The door was open, but I tapped softly and waited. Mrs B looked up and indicated for me to go in and sit on a small chair by the side of her desk. I think it was the first time I had seen her smile, and it wasn’t much of a smile, but maybe she was trying to reassure me. It didn’t work. I was scared stiff, especially when she reached into one of her drawers and showed me the packet of cigarettes from the playing fields.
She soon launched into a lecture about the dangers of smoking, following up with what we all knew, that smoking and even bringing smoking materials into school was a serious offence. I tried to explain that I’d only found the cigarettes and put them in my bag, but of course she noted that I hadn’t handed them in and anyway at age 12 I was far too young to legally have cigarettes at all. Then she said that being in possession of smoking materials was usually punished with the cane.
I must have been visibly shaking at that, because she straightaway told me she wasn’t going to cane me. I might have been slightly reassured, but not by much. She then asked me what I thought my punishment should be, and I think I muttered something about detention. That made her smile again.
Perhaps I was able to relax slightly, I’m not sure now, but she gently but really quite kindly suggested the punishment should act as a real deterrent to me ever to think about trying cigarettes again. I didn’t really understand what she meant until she said she thought some kind of smacked bottom would be necessary to drive home the message. My heart sank.
Mrs B then asked whether I felt a dose of the slipper might be acceptable. I’d never been slippered and the thought of it was pretty much as bad as if she’d threatened to cane me. I remember stammering a lot and perhaps that conveyed to her I was frightened of that too.
I know I was tempted to ask again for a detention, even though it would have meant having to explain to my parents why I would be late home, and I felt I wouldn’t be able to be honest with them. While I was thinking, Mrs B came up with another offer; four smacks on my bottom.
That confused me more than anything. How would that be different from the slipper? Did she in fact mean four whacks with the slipper? Mrs B probably saw my confusion, so she told me it was her final offer. I didn’t think about asking what would happen if I declined again. I remember nodding as I thought, and maybe she took that as acceptance.
Mrs B’s next move was to push her chair back away from her desk and beckon me towards her. I stood up slowly, not really knowing what was happening. As I approached her side, though, she took me gently by the right arm and pulled me across her lap. At first I resisted. I think I still did not realise what was happening or what I was expected to do. Was that especially naïve?
Slowly but surely, my arm was pulled across and, with her knees in the way, I found myself compelled to lay across her lap. Then I finally grasped that she was going to spank me. My parents never spanked, so this was absolutely my first experience of this being done to me.
I was, of course, wearing school uniform, which was a dark green pinafore style dress with a pale yellow shirt underneath and a green and yellow striped tie. The school still dictated we also wore dark green knickers and vest, although this was one rule that wasn’t rigorously enforced. My parents, though, always bought me the uniform underwear so I was properly attired right down to my underwear. I was wearing black slip-on shoes over white knee-length socks and, as I lay across Mrs B’s lap, I could feel my shoes in danger of falling off. My hands were reaching down, but not quite touching, the wooden floor, and my legs were in mid-air. I was in no danger of falling off, though, because Mrs B had one hand firmly pressing down on my bottom!
She asked if I was ready. With no knowledge of being spanked, I found that so difficult to answer. Of course, I understood that the hand now resting on my backside would then be reapplied with a smack, but how hard? And how much would it hurt? You must feel I was a total wimp as you read this.
“Come along, Chloe. Are you ready?” Or words to that effect. Mrs B sounded impatient, so I very reluctantly confirmed I was, and the first spank immediately struck my bottom.
It actually wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. It did smart a bit, though, and I think the second smack was harder because that seemed to sting more. The third and fourth smacks hit my bottom with about 10 seconds in between, and then I presumed that was that. My punishment was over.
Mrs B told me to stand up and I struggled to get off her lap. For some reason, I smiled as I gave my backside a quick rub. It still smarted a bit, but really wasn’t much. After another brief warning to keep away from cigarettes, Mrs B sent me on my way.
Two of my friends were waiting for me outside the school gates and they both looked worried as they asked what had happened. I felt quite proud as I told them I’d got four whacks.
From that moment on, I felt very differently about Mrs B. She became one of my favourite teachers and I was very happy when I reached the fifth form and she took us for mathematics. It was one of the boys who, a couple of years later, remarked the teachers who slippered were always more popular than those who didn’t. I was 16 when I tried smoking again and was caught by my parents. Why, oh, why didn’t they spank? The cold silence was awful, and it wasn’t enough to stop me getting the habit.