A teacher earns a reputation. Is there a way out for the girls?
By Joanna Jones
Mr Jones was not a pleasant teacher. He taught History, a subject I enjoyed, or at least enjoyed from any teacher but him. To be fair he knew his stuff and could explain it well. His problem was he had his favourites, and I was one of them. Being his favourite was not pleasant.
I had heard the rumours before I was first in his class, in second form. He was a keen user of the slipper; one of those who would find some excuse to whack someone almost every lesson. However, unlike most ‘super strict’ teachers, his attention did not centre on the selection of boys who seemed to be always in trouble, but instead fell upon the girls in general, but in particular a small selection of girls, most of whom were never in trouble elsewhere.
No matter how well behaved you were, he always would find an excuse; whispering (his favourite), not sitting straight, not paying sufficient attention, the obscure question from last week, fidgeting…. The list went on.
And I was one of his chosen.
He’d been my teacher in second and fourth form, and I had lost count of the number of times he’d put me over his knee, lifted my gym slip and whacked my regulation pale blue knickers with his slipper. On a couple of occasions it had been twice in one lesson!
Painful? Of course! (although after a while one got used to what to expect).
Did I complain? To my parents.
Their reaction? Well behave yourself then.
To this day I am not sure if they knew what kind of person he was and were unprepared to challenge the school, or whether they genuinely thought he was just very strict. Whatever, one must remember that 1957 was a very different world to that of 2007!
I had thought long and hard whether to choose history for A-level, but eventually allowed my heart and head (it was certainly my best subject) to overrule my fears.
The rumours were that he might be a little more circumspect with the older girls in any case.
I was delighted he was not one of the two teachers for the subject in the lower sixth, and had a great year.
However, when I realised that he was going to be one of the two for the subject in the upper sixth I was ‘disappointed’. It had been over two years since I’d last had him, and in that time I’d not experienced the slipper once. I fully expected my record to be lost within the first few weeks.
It was gone in a few minutes!
“Colette Parker, come out here. You should know better at your age than to not concentrate in my class.”
“But I was sir,” I replied, and then gave him a brief resume of what he’d been discussing as he introduced his first lesson and the topics he planned to cover.
It was not enough as he informed me that he expected me to not only be attentive but to look attentive, and not distract others.
A few minutes later he was no doubt feasting his eyes on my (regulation) knicker clad rear, now resignedly waiting over his knee for six slaps of the slipper (four for my apparent inattention / disturbing others and two for answering him back).
Of course he had done the skirt lifting and given my bottom a ‘nice’ pat as he’d got me ready.
The sting was a bit sharper than I remembered but I gritted my teeth.
Four further whacks and it was over. I stood to return to my seat, my skirt dropping back into place quickly. I gave my bottom a somewhat involuntary rub as I smoothed the lower half of my uniform back.
“What do you say Miss Parker?”
With my back to him he did not see the roll of my eyes. However, I turned and dutifully said: “Sorry and thank you sir”
He was part mollified. “I would watch yourself Miss Parker. If I have the impression of any insolence I can and will have you straight back out again. Understood?”
I tried to look suitably penitent, as I said: “Yes sir.” and sat down again.
Inwardly seething, I dutifully look attentive for the remainder of the lesson. During that time, two other girls both went over his knee for four in the first case, and another “upped to six”. Vicky had been due four but two were added for wearing non regulation knickers, no doubt giving Mr Jones an extra thrill!
As usual none of the boys seemed to attract his attention. In the past, on the relatively rare occasion he did do a boy he would bend them over his desk and whack them. Unlike the girls with their skirts always up, more often than not he did not ask them to take their trousers down, unless they had done something particularly irritating.
In junior years most of the boys had found Mr Jones antics a source of amusement, and their main view was he evened up the natural bias of boys tending to be whacked more often, and more severely, than girls for the same breaches of the rules.
It was pleasant on this occasion therefore to find most of my male history classmates professing to be rather uncomfortable at seeing us whacked for spurious reasons, although whether this extended to their discussions when no girls were around I don’t know.
My parents took the “grin and bear it” view: no one wanted to get a reputation as a troublemaker. Mr Jones was a ‘respected’ and experienced teacher so there was little we could do.
History soon became a very schizophrenic subject for me. Great for those bits with the other teacher, Mrs Hilton, but torment with Mr Jones.
I behaved as perfectly as I could, but still every two or three lessons (equating to more or less once a week) it was….. “Colette Parker, what have I said about concentrating?” (or…well any excuse).
Usually it was over his knees. Sometimes he put me over the desk like he did with the boys, though unlike the boys he always made sure my skirt was up and the whacking was over my knickers.
While I was not the only one (and by half-term he had a 100% record having had every girl in the class) I still clearly seemed to get more than my fair share of his attentions.
Most of my friends would not even tell their parents, and those that did got told, well if he is a strict teacher then just behave! You are in the upper sixth now! One or two were more sympathetic to their offspring, but took the “don’t upset the apple-cart view”.
For one it was worse. Poor Sophie; her parents had a cane (actually probably half of our parents did) and her mother gave her four whacks for getting into trouble at school when she complained about him to her. There was no way she was going to tell her parents anything about him again after that.
At the final lesson before Christmas break, he arrived in the class just after the bell. Most of us were chatting quietly and stopped as soon as he came in. Perhaps I was last, but not by much and in any case it was before he’d even stepped into the room or even started to say anything.
Of course he seized his opportunity with gusto.
“Colette Parker, talking again, I have lost count of the number of times you’ve interrupted my class. Perhaps a dozen whacks might remind you to behave. Get out to the front and bend over my desk!”
Never having had more than eight before, I rather gulped as I wondered about making a fuss, and paused slightly.
“You prefer to discuss the matter with the Head?” He demanded.
I did not fancy being introduced to the ‘delights’ of the cane that would be the inevitable consequence of that, so grimly stood and did as I was told. Soon he had my skirt up over my waist with the pale blue knickers now framed by my stockings and suspenders (a sixth form privilege that most girls used except in the warmest months either side of the summer holidays. )
I was seething as I stood legs pressed together with my eighteen year old rear facing my classmates. I gave an involuntary flinch as he whacked the large plimsoll he used as a slipper on his desk, as he lectured the class about behaving as young adults, or if not he would treat them as children, as he was about to do to ‘young Miss Parker here’.
Splat! The sting of the first blow was worse than I expected. Clearly he was planning to lay them on as hard as he could.
Splat! My guess was correct, the sting increased.
After five harsh blows the pain was getting rather intense. I was not going to give him the satisfaction of breaking me though. He’d often enough reduced younger girls to tears, and a couple of my classmates this term for that matter.
However, not me – gritting my teeth I tried to think of anything other than the attentions of the slipper in my rear. For the last four he changed tack. Having got little reaction he administered the ninth in a slightly upward motion, crashing the slipper into the bare flesh of my left upper thigh. I could not resist giving a gasp. According to my friends that seemed to inspire him to greater exertions and the tenth into my other thigh was worse still. It was all I could not to yell out. The last two were awful landing on either thigh top with his full venom.
Finally he told me to stand and return to my seat. Swallowing my bile, I gave the expected apology and thanks and sat down carefully on the hard wooden chair.
You might have thought I’d provided him his fun and Christmas ‘treat’, but no, not Mr Jones, who spent the rest of the lesson telling me to sit still and not fidget. I doubt I was shuffling much if at all but…
Finally he said “You can’t say I did not warn you Colette, wait for me at the end!”
This seemed highly unfair, but there was nothing of course I could do about it.
The bell went and the class disappeared to the afternoon interval, leaving me alone with my nemesis.
He left me sitting in my seat as he paced around the room providing a long monologue about my ‘poor behaviour’. Finally he told me since I seemed to be unable to behave as anything other than a small child he would treat me like one. Once again I was ordered over his knee.
Another slippering I thought. Praying I could hold on given the rather pained state I was already in, I draped myself over his lap, and felt the rather too familiar tug, as my skirt ended up above my waist once again.
Shock! I felt his hands lifting the waistband of my knickers! I was about to object most vigorously when he dropped it back.
“Well young lady, you have quite a red bottom don’t you, but clearly not red enough, given your inability to obey my simplest instructions.”
It was not his slipper he used but his hand as he spanked me hard for five minutes on my pants, and of course the tops of my legs below them.
What he had not achieved with the slipper, the humiliation and rain of hand spanks managed. My silence broke, and then despite my efforts the tears fell also.
With that he stopped, and with a final humiliating peek at, and comment on the state of, my bottom he admonished me to behave in future. Finally I could get up from his lap and was dismissed.
Dismissed to find the toilets, and be consoled by my friends.
During Christmas a dark fury descended every time Mr Jones entered my mind. I decided enough was enough. My New Year resolution was not to accept it and instead to face him down, even if it meant the cane.
To be honest I was scared of the consequences but I was not going to let “Jones the Pervert” (there were a lot of Jones in our area of Wales, and adding a descriptor was not unusual) as I called him continue to take advantage of me. To stiffen my resolve I told my friends what I intended. Most of them were horrified. Gwen warned me how much worse any caning was than the slipper.
Martha, who was Head Girl, warned me not under any circumstances to raise my hands to him. Resist and refuse might get you sent to the Head. Hit out and the result would be almost certain expulsion. Good advice I thought as I began to wonder about the wisdom of the course I was now in my mind committed to.
It was a couple of weeks into January, of behaving impeccably that he decided I had been whispering to my neighbour (which I had not been).
“Miss Parker, I will not have whispering in this class! Come out here!” He called, already fishing in his bottom drawer for his ‘slipper’.
I stood, more for confidence sake, but did not move. “Sorry sir, but I was not whispering.”
“I beg your pardon.” he demanded incredulously.
“I was not whispering.” I said firmly.
For a moment I think he considered bringing Gwen, sitting next to me, into it. However, as she would no doubt have backed me up, to my relief he chose to concentrate on me.
“You were, I saw you start. Get out here now.” He demanded angrily.
So I had ‘started to whisper’, that was his strategy I thought; as I had just ‘started’ then of course no one else may have noticed.
“I am sorry sir but I made no attempt to start to whisper to anyone.” I replied, watching his face turn red with anger. It was quite satisfying to observe in a way.
“That’s it, get out here now, I will not have this disobedience and insolence in my class!” He was raising his voice now.
“Sorry sir, but no. I am not going to be punished again for something I have not done.”
He stormed up to me and shouted. “I will teach you a real lesson, girl. Get over my desk now, unless you prefer a visit to the Head!”
As he made to grab me and drag me out to the front I sat and grabbed the desk to prevent him. “Yes I do prefer the Head,” I declared angrily at him.
He looked at me shocked, disbelieving. “Don’t be a fool!” He said.
My desk fell over as his strength got the better of me and he dragged my struggling body to the front.
“I am not going to let you do this, you pervert.” I shouted at him as he forced me over the desk.
“How dare you!” Was the reply.
In the process of him trying to keep me over the desk while lifting my skirt I managed to break free.
Running for the door my last comment was: “I am going to the Head!”
I literally ran down the corridors and got there just before him.
Fortunately a secretary asked him what the problem was when he started to demand I return to his class. Perhaps then he realised that he was not going to succeed and instead barged up to the Headmaster’s door and knocked. He did not let me follow him in.
Ten minutes later I was allowed to join them. Mr Jones was not stupid and the story, while heavily slanted, that the Head heard bore some resemblance to the truth.
The Head asked me for my version of events, which I gave. I could see his face darkening as I mentioned I felt he had deliberately accused me. To my frustration he insisted on staying on the matter at hand, what had happened ‘today’ not incidents dealt with in the past.
His conclusion? He got Mr Jones to admit that perhaps, perhaps I had not been whispering and he’d acted hastily. It was his view there had been an unfortunate misunderstanding. He also should not have tried to drag me to the front after I had asked to go to him on the matter. I received an apology on both counts, with Mr Jones admitting he had let his anger get the better of him a little.
However, my calling a teacher a “pervert” was an outrageous slur. Regarding my general point that I felt victimised, (which he had not let me expand on) he said if any pupil had concerns that they were being punished or targeted unfairly then he would listen and his door was always open, but such disrespect and abuse as I had shown, even if upset, had no place in his school.
I was to receive four strokes of the cane, and apologise in class to Mr Jones. The alternative was essentially expulsion.
Faced with that ‘choice’ it was the cane. Mr Jones had a very satisfied look as the head retrieved a stick from his cupboard. While no doubt disappointed that he was not going to see my knickers whacked, he clearly anticipated me getting my “just desserts”.
Slowly I extended my left palm outwards. I watched as the cane was placed on my palm, then with a “Hold still,” was raised up then whipped down with a faint whistle.
This was nothing like the slipper. In that case a sting of the first stroke build up painfully as the blows were given, and it was a case of trying to say hold on as it got progressively worse. In this case I felt my hand had been cut in two, with excruciating pain almost instantaneously. With a yell I clamped my hand to my body not believing the agony it was in.
A moment later the Head ordered it out again. Much more reluctantly I did so.
Aaaaah! I gasped and felt tears running down my cheeks. The slipper was bad, this, however, was barbaric.
I closed my eyes, to help summon the courage to allow him to brand my other hand.
Thwack! Another scream. Was it my imagination or was it worse on that hand? Perhaps he had hit harder.
Finally, tears now streaming down my face, I took the last stroke, another blow cutting my palm, seemingly trying to separate my fingers from the rest of the hand.
There was some final admonishment that he could give six, and take away my prefect badge if there was a repeat, but my mind was elsewhere as he dismissed me.
I returned to the class with Mr Jones, who mercifully did not speak. Once in, my composure was just about sufficient to announce to the class that I apologised to Mr Jones for calling him a pervert, and that I should not have done so.
He left me alone for the rest of the lesson. Meanwhile my tears subsided into anger again. No doubt Mr Jones felt vindicated, and no doubt the Head thought he had dealt adeptly with a difficult problem. I had got an apology for being falsely accused et cetera, but he had punished me for abusing a teacher.
However, while they may both be satisfied with the outcome, I was most certainly not! I had not been able to get across to Mr Harrison (the Head) exactly why I felt victimised; not been able to explain all the things that he had done leading up to the incident. The Head had forced the discussion to what had happened that lesson only. With Mr Jones present it had been difficult to discuss anyway.
I stared at the tramlines now painfully branding each of my palms. What to do now? I was not going to let this go!
I then remembered his statement: that if any pupil had concerns that they were being punished or targeted unfairly then he would listen and his door was always open. Okay, I thought, let’s take him at his word!
Thus after the lesson I, as briefly as possible, took the consolation from my friends before setting off back to the Headmaster’s office. To say that they thought me mad would be an understatement. Quite a few expected me to lose my badge in addition to having further cane strokes.
Mr Harrison was not especially happy to see me at the start of his lunch break. At first he rather angrily assumed that I’d been sent for refusing to apologise, until he realised that was not the case.
When I told him I wanted to ask what he meant when he said his door was always open to complaints, his face darkened again. He warned me he would investigate and take the matter seriously as he had promised, but if there was no proof then it could do more harm than good. He pointed out that if he found I was acting maliciously (and to date Mr Jones was viewed as a good hard working teacher) he would expel me.
I think he was quite surprised when I told him I wished to continue with the complaint. Ten minutes later he was somewhat surprised at what I had outlined. He did agree that if true the punishments to girls did seem rather frequent. I don’t know if he believed me about the hand spanking – lifting knickers incident. It was, after all, with no witnesses probably going to be my word against his.
Just as I finished there was a knock on the door. It was Martha, the Head Girl, who’d persuaded the secretary to see if she could be let in despite me already being there. When she told the Head that she was concerned that he might not believe me and had come to offer me moral support as Head Girl he bit his lip. Perhaps, he realised then that an easy quiet solution was now going to be harder to find. As she described the instances she had witnessed, including slipperings of herself in third and fifth form, the Head visibly slumped. Finally he promised to make some discrete enquires, but to give him some time.
While we might have given him time, the dam had broken. What we, or he, never expected was the word getting round that the Headmaster would give a fair hearing to a pupil making a complaint. That afternoon most of the upper sixth girls in my class went to see him at the interval or during study periods. A couple of boys (both prefects) also went to say they found his behaviour disturbing.
The next day the little sisters went, taking friends with them. I later found out those included a few others who’d had the knickers lifted treatment while over his knee!
The following day, further girls asked for meetings, and suddenly parents that had been reluctant to disturb the equilibrium felt able to phone and express their ‘concern’ too.
It was enough, by the beginning of the following week he’d apparently been suspended and, rather than face the music, he resigned within a month. The papers fortunately never got hold of the story, and none of the middle class parents that formed the majority of the school catchment wanted their daughters dragged into the courts as witnesses so in my view he did not get the public humiliation he deserved.
The day he finally resigned Mr Harrison called me to his office to tell me. His comment I remember was: “I don’t know whether to punish you for the trouble you’ve caused, or commend you for your courage.”
Fortunately he was giving a wry grimace.
My concern was he’d just go and find some other school to carry on in. After all, there was no Teaching Council in those days. Mr Harrison understood my point and indicated he would make sure that he at least never taught in either a mixed or girls’ school if at all possible, though he strongly doubted he would be getting a request to provide a reference.
Personally I hope that he never taught again.