A headmaster’s inner thoughts when he deals with an errant pupil
By Joanna Jones
It is amazing, even now, so many years later, how many people think that somehow my role in life as Headmaster included whacking girls on their knickers. It was something that I never did. There is, to many, some sexual, erotic overtone that feeds the imagination that for them can never be replicated by any other form of punishment, other than of course the wholly unrealistic scenario of actually having those knickers somehow removed.
However, while I can see how the overt nature of such a punishment can stimulate, and for such reason it was banned for male teachers to apply such a sanction by the local education authority in my area, to say the alternative for girls at my school was not without its tension would be a fallacy. It’s a fact that makes me wonder whether I should have delegated the whole distasteful business of female punishments to a female member of staff much earlier than I did, only a couple of years before my retirement.
For boys, the standard school retribution was a roughly two foot long, thick leather strap, usually on the underpants and up to twelve strokes, though on average it was six. However, for girls I had a lightweight, fairly short strap which I would administer the same number of blows to their hands. The short, lightweight nature made it much safer than the sort of tawse used north of the border, with its milder nature compensated by the number of strokes.
It was when it was a sixth former, almost a mature young woman, in front of me that the potentially erotic nature of the punishment would raise itself.
Possibly the last such example I remember was the strapping of Melanie Wills.
Melanie was a fairly tall, blonde and rather good looking girl, who generally was exceptionally well behaved. I doubt she had even seen the inside of our detention room, far less seen the slipper that could be administered in there, let alone my strap. However, in mid-to-late April of her final year, and a month or two before her A-level exams, she found herself outside my office.
Outside, with a note from a teacher indicating she had been found in a rather passionate embrace with a boy on school grounds. The boy concerned was a year older and was now a former pupil who was not due back at his University till the following week. The teacher concerned had escorted him off the premises with the clear instruction not to return unless he had official business.
Poor Melanie, she was thus left to face the consequences alone. And that would be my consequences, of course.
The moment she walked in to my office I felt a tension rise. Her face eloquently told the story. There was the nervous chewing of the lip, the flick of the eyes as she took in the environment that she no doubt never expected to see in such circumstances, and then there were the hands clutching the seams of her skirt as she shuffled, reluctantly, across towards my desk. She knew she was not here for a pleasant chat about her academic progress.
She stuttered out a statement to the effect Mr Grey had sent her to see me and managed to disengage her right hand from the skirt seam to hand the note to me. Her hands were noticeably trembling as she did so.
Rather than return her hands to the side, she clasped the two of them together in front of her straight grey skirt as she stood with her legs slightly crossed waiting, in not a little dread, for me to read the message.
The message briefly outlined what I described above, and I felt a resignation in me. First offence or not, sixth former or not, there was no real alternative to the strap.
I fixed her with a stare, causing her eyes to immediately drop dejectedly downwards.
“Do you know what this note says?” I asked quietly.
Her voice quavered as she answered. “That, that Mr Grey found me near the gymnasium with Colin Harris?” She rather blurted it out before she lost control.
Rather unsympathetically I continued: “And how exactly did he find you?”
A first tear glistened in one eye. “Please I am so sorry sir, it won’t ever happen again.”
There was no point continuing the inquisition; she was already near breaking point and experience told me that I needed her to retain some composure for what lay ahead. For certain girls, those ‘regulars’ or those who feel the need to be tough, a severe lecture with suitable questions has a purpose. Here it was the opposite. The lecture Melanie Wills was giving herself, and would no doubt continue to give herself after leaving my office, would be far more effective than any I could manage.
I adopted my firm, implacably reasonable tone, and explained rather gently that she had let herself and the school down, that her actions both in bringing Mr Harris on-site, and her activities with him, were both unacceptable. Actions that, despite her age, left me no alternative but the strap.
Her lip quivered as the word ‘strap’ was first mentioned. She was only just holding herself together as she gave some form of reluctant, resigned nod as the fate she no doubt had feared from the moment she’d been caught was confirmed.
There is something vaguely erotic in seeing a pretty eighteen year old girl standing in front of you in such a case. The competing emotions of misery at the predicament, the desire to be brave and the genuine fear of what the next few minutes will bring were all, all too clearly, running though her, are a heady cocktail indeed.
Her hands were now behind her back, subconsciously placed protectively as far from me as practical in the circumstances. I saw her flinch as she watched my left hand go to my lower desk drawer and extract the short, just over one foot, lightweight leather strap.
She was rather firmly biting her lip as her eyes reluctantly locked their focus on the implement.
“Take off your watch and put it in your blazer pocket then put your blazer on that chair over there.” I ordered quietly.
In a clear horrified daze she automatically obeyed. A few moments later her watery looking eyes were looking up at me as she stood opposite.
From experience I knew that while not crying yet, she would be very soon. She might be desperately trying to be brave, but emotionally she had already spent too much.
Normally, a sixth former deserving of the strap would get at least eight strokes, my original intention, but I knew even one blow would be a dreadful, humiliating embarrassment for her, even if a single stroke in itself was not excessively painful. I could not really give her less than six, though, not if I expected it to be a deterrent to others as well as Melanie herself.
“Six strokes, young lady. Now hold your hands out, one on the other. And keep them out if you don’t want extra!”
Her face contorted as the number was announced. No doubt sick at the severity of the prospect, but maybe a hint of relief it was not more. I am sure she knew few sixth formers escaped with less than eight.
Her face was flushed, her breaths very audible and rapid as her hands came from behind her back and up into position straight out in front of her.
She now looked oh-so-vulnerable as her breasts moved slightly together as a result. She was wearing the summer term uniform; thin white knee socks and a skirt that came to a few inches above the knee. That skirt hem slightly rose in an alluring manner to reveal a hint more of her thigh at the same time. My mind briefly wandered to wondering what might be underneath the skirt. A thought I suppressed quickly, feeling a little disgust at myself for even considering that, however fleetingly.
I focused briefly on her petite hand with slender well formed fingers before looking up at her face. Her eyes watched horror stricken as the strap went up to my shoulder then she squeezed them shut as the leather descended sharply onto her left palm.
The eyes opened wide and her mouth formed a shocked ‘Oh!’ as the sting hit home. To her credit she did not cry out, nor drop her hands out of position.
“Swap hands.” I ordered as I raised the strap again.
I was right. As she did so the first tear tracked out of her right eye and onto her cheek as her now pink left palm was replaced with the as yet still pale white right one.
This time a grimace as the strap did its stinging job. Tears now trickled silently from both eyes. Bravely she swapped her hands once again.
Her pink palms took on a darker shade as I strapped down the remaining four blows. While the tears were not to be stopped, she was clearly oh-so-desperately trying to be brave as she bottled up the wails that I am sure she wanted to make.
It was only after the last blow that she finally let herself go, and a sob wracked her body as she finally clutched her hands to her chest then squeezed them to her body.
“I am so sorry, sir.” She half sobbed, half sniffed out as she gazed down at one reddened palm, with slightly swollen fingers, cradled in the other.
Her eyes gazed at me in a desperate way, almost as if she wanted to fall into my arms and get a hug of reassurance it was over. It was a hug that in practice, of course, I could not give.
Instead I used my most conciliatory voice as I sat back down at my desk. “It’s over, Melanie, and you took that very bravely. Now, I am sorry that was necessary, but I am sure it will never be needed again. I suggest you take a few minutes to clean yourself up and then go to your class.”
Her attractive face did not look disfigured despite the tear tracks. Perhaps it was the relief it was over, mixed perhaps with a little pride that I’d complemented her on how she had taken it. This, intermingled with the painful misery of what had happened, seemed to give here face a vulnerability that was rather becoming to my mind.
Nodding, Melanie replied with mild sniff and a rather weak smile. “Yes, sir. Thank you sir.”
She turned and picked up her blazer. I watched her well-shaped figure disappear though my door, leaving me to wonder again about my emotions, and again whether, at least for the older girls, I should find an alternative solution to their punishments.
© Joanna Jones 2014