I attended a public elementary school where corporal punishment was practiced. Boys and girls were segregated in the playground each having to play on opposing sides of the school. In Grade three this practice was abolished. Corporal punishment remained all six years I was a student there.
In grade three when I was ALLOWED to play with boys, we girls and boys were very confused. Off school property we had no problems with this.
In the mornings we had to say the Lord’s prayer. Anyone who wasn’t of Christian faith had to leave the room. I didn’t like it.
This is what I remember in Saint john, New Brunswick, Canada from a couple of decades ago. There may have been rules or policies in place about the lord’s prayer that I, as a 5 to 11 year old were not aware of, but the memories of hearing the strap waft down that single corridor from the principals office and watching the boys play on the better side of the school playground still echo firmly in my mind.
Not all was bad at that elementary school. Three of those six years I was taught by fabulous teachers whom ignited the imagination and nourished the creative side.
But this post is about corporal punishment. I remember being picked up by my left ear then dragged out into the hallway and plunked down on the cold square tiled floor for forgetting my homework at home in Grade 6. By the ear. Three of us sat in the hallway practically pissing ourselves in fear as the rest of the class got screamed at because of our stupidity. Our left ears were bright red and swelling.
One classmate whom I’ll call Carol one day decided to push my head into the outside brick wall, hold my neck there while choking me… I hadn’t fought back. Did I even know then how to fight? I fought with my brother and a couple of my friends brothers but never with girls. Interesting. That year in grade six I had decided to cut all my hair off. Two neighborhood boys had messed up it up so freaking bad with autumn leaves when we were wrestling that couldn’t stand having long hair any more. After the hair cutting the girls began the tormenting in school. I didn’t look like them. I chose to attend a different junior high than they in grade 7.
This feels good to get off my chest truth be told. I don’t believe any of the parents were aware of what was happening at the school. None of us spoke of it. None of us. We took it, when they dished it out. The kids were most violent. The teachers were calm in comparison.
I recently ventured down to that elementary school and made peace with those memories.
The following is an email I wrote to Jecklin from late this summer describing that day,
I walked today down to the old playground I used to play in. It is grown over in trees, brush and newly mowed grass. I continued on making my way to the elementary school I had attended. There had been a fire there about four years ago. They never re-opened the school. I made peace with myself and forgave many people who had hurt me there today. I remembered sitting in the surrounding fields picking flowers. I peered in cloudy windows seeing tidy classrooms with floor tiles beginning to lift and paint peeling off the walls.
I walked on traversing into a new subdivision built for the elderly residents of this fair province. You see the population is aging rapidly here more than any other province in Canada. I then walked to Fernhill Cemetery created in 1848 followed by the crematorium in 1938. It is a massive graveyard filled with the rich and poor side by side. Tombs dug into the side of hills and knocked over monuments adorn and thrill most walkers.
I turned after peering through the woods to the highway and shopping mecca tens of feet below thinking if these dead folks only knew what they would be enduring perched up on this hill.
Then, I came home and cooked some supper for dad, mom and me.
I work in that shopping mecca now, which is another story for another day.