Motivational Methods

A girl seeks help for her studies. By a new writer to us.

By Richard Campbell

“Ah, Norfolk. Do come in and sit down.”

Mr Roberts had been the headmaster of St Joan’s Girls School for many years. I had been in his office a couple of times. First when I joined the school in the 3rd year. On that occasion he was very pleasant. My second visit, in the 4th year, was all together different; he was stern and angry about my involvement in a prank. I got triple detention that time, with the threat of expulsion for any further poor behaviour.

His office was quite big, with space for his large old fashioned desk and chairs for guests to sit. Otherwise, there were a couple of filing cabinets and a tall cupboard.

The school was quite traditional with pupils expected to call teachers ‘Sir’ or ‘Ms’. The uniform code was strict but the quality of the education was second to none.

My father passed away when I was twelve and I took it very badly. I went off the rails which eventually led to my expulsion from my previous school. As you can imagine, my mother was furious and for the one and only time she put me over her knee and spanked me until I was sobbing and begging.

After that experience I turned over a new leaf, joined St Joans, re-sat a school year and then passed my GCSE’s with excellent grades, gaining a place in the sixth form. Six months in to my A levels, I was doing OK but not brilliantly. I could certainly be doing better.

“How have you settling down in the 6th form? A very different approach to learning.” Asked Mr Roberts.

“Yes Sir, quite different. More free periods to study on my own, and a different teaching style.”

“Miss Granger tells me you have missed a couple of assignment deadlines. She is quite concerned about the summer exams. I know they’re six months away but that time will pass quickly.

And now the bombshell came.

“You do realise that if you don’t do well in the summer exams then the school will ask you to leave at the end of this academic year?”

I sat stunned. I know that I had been coasting a bit but I had so far felt that I had 18 months to catch up and get the grades I needed for university.

“You really need to buck your ideas up if you want to succeed at school and in life,” the headmaster continued.

“Sir, I really do want to do well. I have just been struggling with motivation and the new teaching approach,” I pleaded. “Is there something the school can do to help me?”

“Well, I don’t know. For not doing assignments, you could be subject to the school’s disciplinary process, but lack of effort is more of a challenge to address.

“At your age we don’t really give girls detentions. 30 years ago there would have been corporal punishment to keep pupils on the straight and narrow, but with its abolition for under eighteens the school is left with asking poor performing or disruptive pupils to leave.”

Because I had missed a year I was already 18, and I heard myself asking: “And for those who are eighteen?”

“Mmmmmm,” mused the head. “You are now an adult and you have a right to make your own decisions. There have been a number of senior pupils who have made the choice to opt into a more traditional regime but it is a significant step for you to take.”

“I understand that, sir. I do need the grades and do want to stay at the school.”

“Some girls find the threat and, in rare cases, the use of corporal punishment helps motivate them. In fact, there are two in the current sixth form who have opted in.”

That surprised me. I wondered who they were as I sat quietly for a moment considering my options. I had butterflies in my stomach just hearing about it. I knew that being spanked by my mother had given me the short sharp shock I had needed at 13 but this was very different. I knew teachers had previously been allowed to spank, slipper or even cane girls or boys, but in most schools it had been abolished. Clearly occasional use had survived at St Joan’s.

“Maybe it would help if I explain how it will work?” Asked the head.

“Yes, Yes,” I stammered, “good idea.”

“Firstly, you and Miss Grainger would agree monthly targets, supported by some extra tutorials; specific books to read and extra assignments. I believe you are looking for three B grades to get the place you want at University. We will set targets based on achieving that.

“You would have monthly update meetings, here with me,” the Head continued. “I am sure you appreciate not meeting those targets will have consequences, but all being well the threat will do its job and provide the motivation you need.”

I spoke almost in a whisper: “And if I don’t hit target?”

“Well, for a senior girl the cane is the most appropriate method. It is a very effective form of punishment, used in schools for many years, well, until recently anyway. We would make an appointment a few days later, typically at the end of the school day or even on a Saturday morning. A meeting during school hours might prompt questions and girls normally need time to recover. I find most don’t want peers to know what has happened.”

“And what would happen?”

“The cane is given on the bottom, and you are allowed one layer of clothing to protect your modesty. No jeans or heavy clothing. Some wear gym shorts, others just take it on their underwear.”

“One layer?”

“We want you to get maximum benefit from the lesson you are being taught!”

I gulped. “What is it like?”

“The meeting would be very formal. The cane itself is a very effective form of punishment and it hurts a great deal. I find most cry out and there are usually tears. Your bottom will be very sore. Sitting will be uncomfortable for a day or so, and the marks can last a week.

“I am explaining this so you understand the process and for you to be clear that it is not to be taken lightly as a choice. We will be firm, but fair. If you under-perform you can expect a painful and very memorable experience, but you may prefer it to leaving us. You must remember we are providing additional educational support as a quid pro quo. I find the threat is a real motivation. For those who also need proof of the cane’s effectiveness, they find experiencing it even more so. It’s rare pupils want to repeat the experience. It proved very useful in keeping order and raising standards for many years.”

I sat and thought. I so wanted to get good results in my A levels but I found the prospect of this type of punishment scary to say the least.

I finally asked: “Would you tell my mother?”

“No, you are 18 and able to make your own decisions. It will be recorded in the school records but very few people see those.”

“Can I have 24 hours to think about it?”

“Of course. Let me give you this form. Return it to my secretary, signed, if you wish to take this course of action.”

The meeting concluded and I walked home, my mind racing. According to the Head, I was going to get D’s or worse and it was going to take a lot to turn this round. A lot of hard work on my own. I decided to look on the internet to see if I could find any more information about school caning. The computer was difficult to use surreptitiously but I found five spare minutes and searched for corporal punishment. I found stories and photos that made it quite clear the cane was very painful, but also that it was effective in focussing the mind.

I also looked at the form. It said I was consenting to corporal punishment but also said that I would be immediately expelled if I signed and then backed out of a scheduled punishment.

Unsurprisingly, I had a sleepless, restless night, but in the morning my mind cleared. It’s a deterrent. Work hard and it won’t happen. Simple.

I handed the form to the Head’s secretary at mid morning break. Signed.

Next day, I had a tutorial with Miss Granger. It was clear that she knew about the form and she set the tasks and targets for the month. It was hard work. Lots of extra study, but there was a real improvement in my work. She was very pleased.

The month passed quickly and a note came to see the head on the 23rd at morning break time. I was nervous but confident that I had worked hard. Mr Roberts was also pleased. He praised my renewed work ethic and the steps I had already made but also made clear that continued effort and progress was needed.

March was also good and I settled into the rhythm of extra assignments and normal work.

April was a different matter. I found the topics difficult and a couple of parties and associated hangovers left me short of time on two key assignments. The consequences of failure loomed large in my mind. I worked late into the night in an effort to catch up but I guessed that the meeting with Mr Roberts would be far less pleasant this time. It was my own fault but I felt sick and scared. The 23rd was a Wednesday and my meeting was at 10:30.

I presented myself to Mrs Jones, the head’s secretary, and she told me to wait. I already felt like a condemned prisoner.

The buzzer rang and I was told to go in. There was no chair this time, so I had to stand in front of the desk. Mr Roberts was working and ignored my presence initially. I stood in silence for what seemed like an eternity but was probably just one minute.

He looked up. “Norfolk, I am disappointed. Mrs Grainger tells me you let things slide this month and two of the four assignments didn’t meet the standard expected. If it was just one you might have had a final warning. Do you have an explanation you wish to make?”

“No sir, not really. I let myself get distracted. I did put in a lot of effort but clearly not enough.”

“Very well. At least you have the courage to accept your responsibility in this matter. We discussed at length the commitment both sides were making, and I made it very clear what would happen if you didn’t achieve the targets being set.”

I took a deep breath and said: “Yes sir, you did.”

He then paused, looked me straight in the eye and passed sentence.

“You have admitted not completing two assignments to the standard required by the staff of this school. This is a breach of the rules which you agreed to follow.  Therefore, for failure to achieve educational targets as agreed, you are required to attend a disciplinary meeting where you will receive six strokes of the cane.”

“Yes sir, I understand.” I whispered.

My stomach was churning. My legs felt weak. I thought back to the parties and the hangovers. I was going to pay dearly for those.

“This meeting will not be today,” he continued. “I assume you would prefer to meet outside of school hours?”

I nodded.

He consulted his diary. “I am free Friday at 4pm or Saturday at 10am.”

Two or three days to wait and to think about it. I was sure that was part of the reason for the delay.

I thought quickly. My mother had friends coming round on Friday and I would be expected to join them. Saturday, I was able to go out without suspicion.

“On Saturday, sir.”

“OK. 10am, at my house in the grounds. Just ring the bell. As it is a Saturday there is no need to wear school uniform. Don’t be late.”

It was clear the meeting over, so I went to my tutorial.

Mrs Grainger was sympathetic, but clear I had not achieved the expected standard. I told her I had left myself and her down. She was surprised but smiled. I somehow focussed on the work.

All too soon Saturday came round. I told my mother I was meeting a friend for coffee. I dressed smartly. I had put on a skirt and, after some rooting around in a drawer, I found a pair of white cotton full briefs to put on. I wrapped up warm in a coat and left at 9.20. It was only 10 minutes to the school but I wanted to be there with plenty of time. I was very nervous.

As I hung around outside, I saw another girl leave the Head’s house. She looked a little furtive and walked slowly as though it was painful. One hand was carefully rubbing her bottom. I recognised Rose Millar, a member of the upper sixth. As she came closer I could see her eyes were red and puffy. Her makeup had run. She had been crying.

Fortunately she didn’t see me.

‘In 45 minutes that will be me,’ I thought.

It was only later that I realised at no point had I considered leaving the school as the alternative to the meeting.

At 9.55, I plucked up courage and rang the bell. Mr Roberts answered the door and ushered me inside. In the hall, he took my coat and asked me to remove my shoes. “Follow me please.”

I followed him down the hall to a door.

“Please turn and face the wall. Hands on your head, please. I will call you when I am ready.”

He went through the door and closed it behind him. The house was very quiet. I felt my heart pounding and after a while my arms began to ache. It must only have been 5 minutes but it was enough time to consider what was to come next and get butterflies in my stomach.

Suddenly I heard him say: “Enter.”

I opened the door. It was a big room with tall ceilings. I closed the door behind me. He sat at a desk away on the far side of the room. I padded across the floor and stood, at attention, in front of the desk. On the desk was an exercise book and a school cane. I knew what one looked like but I was morbidly fascinated all the same. This one was about three feet long and had a crook handle.

“Norfolk, you know why you are here. You have not completed assigned school work to the satisfaction of your teachers and as a consequence you are here to receive corporal punishment. The cane.”

“Yes, sir.” I said softly.

He opened the exercise book and began writing. 

The date. Elizabeth Norfolk. Six. The cane.

I could make out the name above. The name above was Rose Millars.

He finished and stood. “Right, let’s get it over with! Do you see the chair to your left?”

I nodded. It was a tall backed dining style chair. Less than three paces away.

“Please go and stand behind it.”

I walked the short distance, and stood behind the back of the chair. Mr Roberts picked up the cane and flexed it in his hands.

“Please adjust your clothing.”

I knew what he meant, and I knew it was coming, but I was still embarrassed. I reached back and grabbed the hem of my skirt, and pulled upwards. I tucked it into the waistband. I knew when I lent over it would fall forwards, clear of my bottom. I had checked this would happen, earlier, at home.

“Right, when I tell you I want you to bend over the back of the chair. Head down. I recommend you grip the legs or the seat frame. You must remain in position, otherwise there will be penalty strokes.”

I nodded my understanding.

“Very well. Bend Over!”

I lent forward over the back of the chair.  I reached forward and gripped the chair frame. The back of the chair pressed into my tummy forcing me to keep my legs straight. It definitely presented Mr Roberts with a good target. Even in full sided briefs I was totally on show.

Mr Roberts stood on my left side and I felt the cane on my bottom.

“I want you to stay in that position. If you stand up then the stroke will be repeated.”

I felt the cane withdraw and then whistle and thwack.

No amount of reading prepares you for that first experience. The initial impact and then the crescendo of pain, then back to a residual ache. Despite gritted teeth I heard myself grunt in pain, and my back arched.

I gripped harder and the second stroke struck me. A bit lower down this time. It forced me up onto my toes and caused another grunt of pain. The crescendo repeated but the residual pain was greater.

The third caused me to cry out. I was already very sore. All thoughts of dignity and embarrassment went out of the window.

The fourth caught me lower in the crease at the top of my thighs. I was openly crying now, tears rolling down my cheeks.

Five was nearer the middle again. I used every ounce of strength and mental reserves to stay in position.

The sixth was the hardest. I was crying. In pain. But I still held position. Somewhere in my mind I think I registered it was over but I was struggling to think of anything but the pain in my posterior!

One thing I was sure of was that I never wanted to be in this situation again. I would work like never before to get those grades.

In the distance I heard Mr Roberts say I could stand up. That took quite a bit of effort. Every move caused a fresh wave of pain. I was told to go and face the wall.

It had all taken less than five minutes.

It took about 10 minutes for the crying to stop and for me to regain my composure. My hands strayed to my bottom and I could feel raised lines where the cane had done its work, even through the cotton of my pants. I suddenly felt conscious that my bottom was still on display.

I think the Head had been waiting for me to compose myself because he suddenly said: “Please come over here and adjust your clothing.” I was surprised when he asked: “Are you ok?”

“Yes sir. I can’t believe how much it hurts. I brought that on myself. I’ve certainly learnt my lesson.”

“Still want those B’s?” the headmaster asked.

“Even more so, now!”

“Very well. Hopefully this is a one off experience for you. There’s a washroom next door. You can go wash your face and you are free to leave.”

About 5 minutes later, I got my coat and shoes, we shook hands and I left. I walked around the grounds for about an hour to allow the puffiness and redness around my eyes to go.

Thankfully my mother was out when I got home. I went to my room; I removed my skirt and slowly peeled down my pants, trying to avoid fresh spasms of pain. In the mirror I could see six evenly spaced, parallel wheals stretching from the crease with my thighs upwards.

Mr Roberts clearly was an expert!

I took a picture on my phone as a reminder, and whenever I felt like slacking on the workload over the next 12 months I referred to it, although in truth I didn’t need it. The memory of the experience stays with me even now.

Epilogue

I saw Mrs Grainger on Monday. She told me to sit, if I could, but other than that the caning was never mentioned. The pain when sitting was gone by Tuesday, and the marks faded in just over a week.

My Mother never found out I’d been caned.

I got 2 B’s and an A at A level. I was so pleased with myself.

I became friends with Rose Millar.

I did meet Mr Roberts, at his home office, one more time, but that was nothing to do with my A levels. That is another story.

The End

© Richard Campbell 2019