Unruly Class

A lazy teacher receives a lesson herself

By Hilary Wilmington

Amid the screeching and hilarity a desk overturned with a crash and Miss Turnbull thought this was the cause of the sudden, shocked silence which descended on her class. Then she realised the girls were all scrambling to their feet. She turned and saw the headmaster standing behind her, with a face like thunder. A few girls went to retrieve the desk.

“Leave it!” He barked.

They froze, then returned to their places. He asked Miss Turnbull to step into the corridor for a word. You could hear a pin drop as they exited the room.

“I don’t think I have ever witnessed a scene like that in my school before,” he told her grimly. “The whole class must be punished. Are there any who should be exempt; who did not participate, in other words?”

“No, headmaster,” replied Miss Turnbull. She was blowed if she would let any of them off. Anyway, she hadn’t paid any attention to who was behaving. All she’d been concerned about were the majority who weren’t.

“Very well. Who were the ringleaders?” He asked.

“Melissa and Anita,” she told him, without hesitation.

Miss Turnbull had had a late night the night before and had not had time to prepare anything for this advanced French group. She was also a few minutes late. On arriving, she had hastily picked a translation passage at random out of the book and said they would go round the class translating it out loud, sentence by sentence.

Melissa had spoken up and, with mock patience, had explained to her that they had done that very exercise in their very first lesson with her. Perhaps Miss Turnbull had forgotten because it was so very long ago?

Miss Turnbull had only joined the school three weeks before. The rest of the class had loved it and had laughed uproariously. During the hubbub she saw Anita whisper something to Melissa. It was clearly rude and, although she couldn’t quite hear it, Miss Turnbull was sure she said: “Lazy cow!”

Miss Turnbull had lost her temper and shouted at the class at the top of her voice. This proved entirely ineffective and in fact made things much worse. Anita turned out to be a good mimic and had stood up and started imitating her teacher, who then went beside herself and screeched at them incoherently. At this, lots of other girls had a go at imitating her, standing up and screeching and getting ever more excited and hysterical in their efforts to entertain each other and themselves. Melissa Partridge had then started remonstrating with the rest of the class, trying to get them to calm down.

“But she’s hopeless!” One girl had shouted.

In a response that had cut Miss Turnbull to the quick, Melissa had said: “I know she’s hopeless but really, this won’t do.”

And Anita had laughed: “Oh Lissa, don’t be a spoilsport!”

Then the desk was knocked over.

The headmaster looked quizzically at Miss Turnbull. “Do you mean Melissa Partridge?” He asked.

“Yes headmaster,” she answered firmly.

She could still hear Melissa’s voice saying: “I know she’s hopeless,” just as though she, Miss Turnbull, was a block of wood in the room instead of a person, and a grown-up, and a teacher at that.

Miss Turnbull followed him back into the classroom, where the girls still seemed in a state of shock. After he had ordered the desk to be set back upright, he said: “Melissa Partridge and Anita Garden, go and wait outside my study, please.”

After the door had closed behind them, he addressed the remainder of the class, twenty-four of them in all. “Since you choose to behave like girls half your age, you must expect to be treated like them.” Then, turning to the teacher: “Miss Turnbull, may I borrow a ruler from you, please?”

A puzzled Miss Turnbull fetched him a ruler from her desk, while the girls looked on in disbelief.

“We’ll have this row out first,” he said, indicating the six girls sitting at the front.

He made them form a line to his left. It was only now that it dawned on Miss Turnbull what might be about to happen. If this was what it seemed, it was extraordinary because these were sixth-formers. Extraordinary, but none the less welcome, to a teacher who had just been treated with such derision.

“Come here, Andrea,” the headmaster said to the first girl. She walked over to him. “Hold out your hand.”

He smacked the ruler down on her outstretched palm.

“Go back to your desk. Next!”

The next girl walked forward and received the same. And so on. As the first row of desks began to fill up again, some of those in the row behind tried to get a look at the hands of their already-chastised friends. Others looked anxiously at the classroom door, which had one clear pane of glass in it, fearing that a younger girl, passing on some errand, might look through and see what was going on. The shame would be terrible.

Miss Turnbull watched with a glow of righteous satisfaction at her once-rebellious charges lined up meekly for punishment. Each girl now already had her hand out by the time she reached the headmaster, so the only sounds to be heard were of the headmaster calling: “Next!” Then followed the ruler hitting the proffered palm and the occasional sob, all music to Miss Turnbull’s ears.

She was especially pleased because she had half expected the headmaster to blame her for what had happened, as he had done on several previous occasions when her classes had descended into disorder, though they had never done so as badly as had happened today. Well, perhaps ‘blame’ was a bit strong. He hadn’t been unpleasant about it. On the contrary, he had offered to help her to prepare her classes (insisted, in fact), saying that he was sure better preparation would help to make them go more smoothly.

She had fobbed him off by flirting with him and promising to try out his suggestions, although she still resented the implication that it was her fault when it was obviously the pupils’ fault. In the talk she had had with him on her first day at the school, the headmaster had told her that he sometimes resorted to use of the cane, but only in the event of ‘very serious misbehaviour indeed’.

Miss Turnbull had never had any personal experience of the cane; it had rarely been used in the school she attended, but she had developed the very definite view that he ought to consider using it more often in his school, and had even hinted as much to him. Perhaps he was going to take the hint. Long overdue, if he was. In her opinion there was far too much indiscipline in this school, although she had not thought to ascertain whether other teachers experienced the sort of disorder that she did.

It has to be said that Miss Hortense Rosalind Turnbull (her mother was French, thus accounting for her perfect command of the language) couldn’t really be bothered with this job. She had only applied for it in desperation as her bank balance went first to zero and then into the red. She hadn’t even expressed much enthusiasm in her interview. She was well aware that her appointment probably owed more to a short skirt than the impression she gave of her teaching abilities. She intended to leave just as soon as she could get something better and it seemed a waste to put unnecessary effort into the work in the mean time.

She had been trying for jobs on several fashion magazines, without success. On finishing her degree in French, which had not cost her much effort for obvious reasons, she had tried to become a fashion model, but she had found the training very rigorous and the hours exhausting, and she was not too upset when she was not selected by the agency at the end.

She told herself that once the pupils started behaving themselves she would make an effort to find more interesting things for them to do, but not before then. They should respect her because she was the teacher and that was that.

The second girl in the third row was the cause of a brief interruption to the smooth-running of the proceedings. As the ruler descended, she snatched her hand away, so that it encountered only thin air.

“Would you like to join Melissa and Anita outside my study?” The headmaster enquired ominously.

“No sir.”

“Then I suggest you keep your hand out.”

This the girl did, but she was rewarded by having to hold out her other hand for the same treatment, after which she walked back to her seat in tears. There were no further hiccups in the smooth running of the proceedings. Miss Turnbull continued to watch with spiteful satisfaction as each row in turn lined up to the left of the headmaster.

She made eye-contact with them where she could, so she could let them see how much she approved of what was happening to them. She didn’t care if they hated her. Some were fidgety, some were still, some looked frightened. All of them looked extremely self-conscious. In the variety of their attitudes, if certainly not in their dress, they reminded Miss Turnbull of trainee fashion models lined up to parade, one by one, across a catwalk for the first time. As if to confirm her comparison, she noticed one girl patting at her hair and straightening the collar of her blouse, as though keen to look her best when it came to her turn.

After he had smacked the last girl in the last row, the headmaster proceeded to give them a severe lecture about his expectations of their future behaviour. The bell announcing the next period brought merciful release.

Once Miss Turnbull and the headmaster were alone in the classroom, he asked: “Have you another lesson to teach now?”

“No headmaster,” she responded. “Thank you for coming to my rescue!” She tilted her head and gave him her most winning smile. He deserved it, she thought.

“Show me your notes for this lesson please, Miss Turnbull.”

“I didn’t write any notes,” she admitted, taken off-guard.

There was an unpleasant edge to his voice which made her heart beat a little faster. It reminded her of the way he had just been talking to the pupils.

“We have been over this several times before,” he said severely. “I have advised you to prepare in detail and write down what you intend to do.”

She was thrown into a state of confusion by this unfriendly turn in the headmaster’s attitude towards her, just when she’d thought he had come round to her point of view on the need for pupils to have more discipline.

“I did try it,” she lied. “But I’m afraid it didn’t work.”

“Then you must try harder. Hold out your hand.”

Without thinking, she held out her hand. It received a hard smack from the ruler.

“Ow!” She cried.

She hadn’t even realised he was still holding the ruler. He must have had it concealed behind him. She took a step back from him, holding her struck hand with the other one and staring at it in disbelief. There was a mark across the palm which was turning darker by the second. She was flabbergasted. Had he gone mad, she wondered?

“I’m sorry I had to do that, Miss Turnbull,” he said. “But you deserved it. You have just experienced what all those girls had to receive as a result of your laziness. Now, we have two girls upstairs still waiting to be dealt with. Come with me, please.”

He held the classroom door open for her and she walked through it in a daze.

As they walked along the corridor together and made for the stairs, she tried to gather her wits about her. Was he really a madman? He sounded perfectly calm and sane. In fact, one small part of her mind was beginning to accept that she had not behaved well. But to give her the ruler, like a pupil! That was bizarre!

She wished she could consult someone about his strange and frightening behaviour, but unfortunately there was nobody else she could turn to on the staff for help or advice. She had hardly even been into the staffroom. There were one or two uninteresting old men and the rest were frumpish women who didn’t seem to have any dress sense at all. She wasn’t the slightest bit interested in them. The single exception was a Mrs Fairfax, a part-time teacher of biology, who was quite good-looking and stylishly turned out. Miss Turnbull had made one or two overtures to her, but this woman had reacted with cold hostility, so she had given up. The awful thing was that, up till this moment, the headmaster had seemed to be her only friend and the one person who made the job bearable. He had been well-disposed towards her and she had found him easy to handle.

The headmaster, meanwhile, was following his own, not unrelated, train of thought. He had been a fool, he decided. He had allowed himself to be manipulated by Miss Turnbull into overlooking her failings. He had been taken in by her looks and flattered by her apparent attraction to him. There had been mutterings about her from several members of staff, which he had ignored, and sometimes more than mutterings. Miss Simmons, the head of French, could not stand her and he had perhaps placed too much significance on her admission that she couldn’t speak French as well as Miss Turnbull. Petra was venomous about her, but he’d put that down to jealousy, dismissing her complaints with the thought that a biology teacher was in no position to judge a teacher of French. If they had been prejudiced, he thought, he himself,in his own way, had been just as prejudiced. Now he could see what needed to be done; he must either terminate Miss Turnbull’s employment or make her see the error of her ways. Of the two, he would prefer the latter.

As they ascended the final flight of stairs, Miss Turnbull suddenly had a horrible premonition. It made her stop dead on the penultimate stair. The headmaster looked round at her enquiringly.

“Is something the matter?” He asked, sounding more curious than concerned.

“No, nothing, headmaster,” she replied. Nothing she felt able to put into words, anyway.

He seemed so much taller and more imposing than before and, worse, out of reach of her charms. But she managed to recover her poise because a somewhat comforting thought had occurred to her. If Anita and Melissa were going to get the cane, it would of course be instead of the ruler. That was why he had sent them away at the beginning. They would not have been given a smack on the hand and then caned on top of it, she thought. That would have been most unfair. She felt reassured.

“Come along then.”

As they approached his study, she saw Melissa and Anita sitting on the bench outside it. They rose respectfully to their feet when they saw the headmaster. He swept past them without a word, with Miss Turnbull trailing after him.

Once inside, with the door closed, the headmaster went to a cupboard and took out a cane. Miss Turnbull stared at it in fascination as he flexed it between his hands.

“Now, Miss Turnbull,” he said. “You witnessed what these girls did and singled them out as ringleaders, so perhaps you would like to suggest how many strokes they should receive.”

“Well, I’m not sure headmaster,” she replied. She might have rather relished this opportunity to decide on Melissa’s and Anita’s punishments, but that horrible premonition she had had on the way to his study resurfaced inconveniently.

She tried to banish it again but without success.

“Not many,” she said, lamely.

“Hmm. ‘Not many,'” he repeated thoughtfully. “I wonder why you say that. What would you think of two strokes then?”

“Each?” She enquired.

“Well naturally.”

“Yes headmaster,” responded Miss Turnbull uncomfortably.

“Who would you say was the more badly behaved?”

“Melissa,” she said.

“Ask Anita to come in then.”

It sounded strange to ask for Anita upon her telling him Melissa was the more badly behaved of the two, but then she realised that it would be worse to be second, because of the waiting. She went out into the corridor.

“Anita, come in please,” she said.

Anita followed her back in. The headmaster wasted no time.

“You know what you are here for, Anita?”

“Yes sir.”

“You will receive two strokes and you can thank Miss Turnbull that it is not more.”

Miss Turnbull did not think this was meant literally, but Anita said: “Thank you, Miss Turnbull.”

“Raise your skirt and bend over,” he told the girl.

Miss Turnbull thought she couldn’t have heard properly, but she had. She watched in horror as Anita raised her pleated grey skirt high above her waist and then reached down to touch the tips of her fingers to her toes. The headmaster raised his cane to about shoulder height and brought it down fast and hard across the seat of the girl’s tightly-stretched, navy-blue knickers.

It was a shocking sight. Miss Turnbull could hardly believe her eyes. It must have stung terribly, she thought.

After a very brief pause, the cane rose again. Miss Turnbull couldn’t bear to watch a second time. She closed her eyes, but just hearing it was almost worse. The noise it made, first swishing through the air and then colliding against Anita’s bottom, must have easily penetrated through the closed door of the study to the ears of a waiting Melissa outside.

Anita rose upright like someone who has stayed underwater too long, breathing fast and taking gulps of air. Her eyes were watering and she was blinking hard. The headmaster’s words to her were short and to the point.

“I hope that will persuade you to behave yourself for the rest of your time in this school. Now please tell Melissa to come in to me.”

They heard Anita say: “You’ve got to go in now,” to Melissa.

There followed a whispered exchange between the two friends which neither of the two in the study could catch. Then Melissa appeared.

“You are in a position of authority,” the headmaster began and Miss Turnbull, standing as she was right behind Melissa, thought for a moment that he was addressing her. “But that makes no difference, Melissa,” he went on.

Now Miss Turnbull remembered seeing the prefect’s badge on Melissa’s blouse. Perhaps this explained the mocking superiority with which the girl had spoken to her in the lesson. It would definitely explain her subsequent attempt to restore order.

“You will be treated exactly the same as Anita. She received two strokes.” The headmaster informed the waiting girl.

‘As if she doesn’t know!’ Thought Miss Turnbull.

“Please arrange yourself in the usual way to receive yours,” the headmaster concluded.

Miss Turnbull had got over her initial shock and she was able to contemplate watching a second caning without quite the horror that the first had provoked in her. If it had not been for that continuing gnawing anxiety which would not go away, she might even have been able to enjoy seeing Melissa get her come-uppance.

In the act of pulling up her skirt, the prefect looked round at Miss Turnbull as though drawn to do so against her will. Their eyes met and Miss Turnbull forgot her own anxiety for just long enough to savour a feeling of triumph over this arrogant prefect who had offended her so deeply.

Her view of Melissa’s face was soon replaced by the view of another pair of navy-blue knickers. Melissa kept her legs perfectly straight but all the same she was able to place the palms of her hands, rather than the tips of her fingers, on her toes.

‘I don’t think I could manage that,’ thought Miss Turnbull, but then it was a few years since she had been subject to a regime of games and gym.

There was a sudden swish and crack. Miss Turnbull actually saw a momentary furrow form across the seat of Melissa’s knickers as the cane sprang back. She also saw the girl bring one hand round but it reached no further than knee height before being resolutely replaced.

The second stroke soon followed. Unlike Anita, Melissa waited several seconds before rising, slowly and deliberately, and at the same time clasping her hands to the seat of her knickers. Miss Turnbull craned her neck to see if the girl was crying. Melissa’s eyes were screwed up tight and her face was a picture of agony, but Miss Turnbull could see no tears.

She turned her attention back to the part of Melissa’s anatomy that was more readily visible to her, and watched the girl’s hands clutching at the region where the cane had landed, as though she was clinging on for dear life. It was lucky for Melissa that even prefects had to wear uniform knickers, because they covered all of the beaten area. No marks were visible, although Miss Turnbull was quite sure there would be marks underneath that navy-blue material. She tried to remember what knickers she was wearing herself. Oh yes, it was the dark pink pair with the frilly white edging. They weren’t her skimpiest pair by any means but they were a lot skimpier than school knickers. Probably thinner, too.

On being dismissed, Melissa made it to the door without crying. She hadn’t uttered a word for the whole time between entering the study and leaving it. Miss Turnbull was sure that she was making straight for the sanctuary of the girls’ lavatories and that once there she would burst into tears.

Now Miss Turnbull was alone with the headmaster again. He kept hold of the cane, flexing it between his hands into an alarmingly tight arc. When he spoke, it was as though she had known all along what he would say.

“I do not normally treat teachers like pupils,” he said. “However, as you will have gathered, I am making an exception in your case. You are about to experience the same unfortunate consequences that Anita and Melissa had to suffer, thanks to your laziness and incompetence. You will, in other words, receive two strokes of the cane.”

Miss Turnbull took a deep breath. “I know I haven’t been a good girl, headmaster,” she pouted, attempting on him, even at this eleventh hour, some girlish coquetry.

She came to a stop, unable to think of how to continue. Eventually she stumbled on.

“And I haven’t done all the things you’ve told me to. But I am going to try my best to change from now on.”

‘Oh dear,’ she thought, that had come out all wrong.

She had thought it would sound like a very, very polite and inoffensive way of saying: ‘But I won’t allow you to cane me.’

Even to her own ears, it had sounded much more like abject submission. She couldn’t help it. Today, the headmaster seemed like a completely different person. All trace was gone of the benign, manipulable figure she had experienced, up until today. He now seemed ten feet tall and he exuded moral authority and personal power. She was quite in awe of him.

She had watched him smack the hands of an entire class of sixth-form girls, before smacking her as well. Then she had to watch him cane two girls on their bottoms, one of them a prefect. And now, strangely, she found herself wanting nothing more than to regain his approval. If that meant being caned on her bottom then she would have to be caned, she now decided. However, of one thing she was certain. If he told her to adjust her clothing in any way, she would certainly refuse to do that.

“I am glad to hear of your change of heart,” the headmaster said. “But it is too late to save you from punishment. Raise your dress above your waist, then bend over and touch your toes.”

Before Miss Turnbull knew what she was doing, her hands were grasping the hem of her dress and dragging it up her thighs. The dress was quite tight and the petticoat beneath came up with it. She made no attempt to keep it in place because she knew it would be a fruitless gesture which would only end in further humiliation for her. Then she paused, steeling herself for the final upward tug over the part that was due to feel the cane.

“You may re-fasten that,” the headmaster said.

She looked down and saw what he meant. The front suspender on her left leg had come adrift and was dangling free. She would have left it but, although he had said ‘You may,’ it had sounded more like an order than the giving of permission. So, with quick, practised movements she stretched some nylon over the stud and trapped it in place with the clip. Then she resumed the raising of her dress and petticoat.

When she felt her knuckles encounter the bare skin of her waist above the suspender belt, she bent over and reached for her toes. There was still a gap of at least an inch between fingertips and toes when the strain in the backs of her knees forced her to stop. She doubted if even Melissa could have bent over in such high heels without bending at the knee. So she bent her knees a little and he didn’t express any objection.

With her fingers now touching her toes (almost literally, because she was wearing peep-toe shoes, so only a layer of nylon intervened), Miss Turnbull couldn’t remember feeling so vulnerable in her life before.

She tried to calm herself. She reminded herself that Anita had hardly cried and Melissa had not cried at all, so their punishments could not possibly have been as awful as they looked and sounded.

But when, without warning, the first stroke landed, the sting was excruciating. She shrieked and leapt upright, clutching her hands behind her. She guessed this was a violation of punishment etiquette and she hastily brought herself back under control and bent over again, with a muttered: “Sorry.”

She dreaded him saying that that stroke didn’t count and she would still have two strokes to come.

“Oh dear,” he said. “I’m afraid that won’t do.”

She thought her worst fears were confirmed, but what he went on to say was unexpected, if hardly less daunting.

“Getting up like that is not allowed and for a very good reason. I always administer the cane to the middle of a girl’s bottom and, if you get up like that, I lose my place, so to speak. There is a strong likelihood that the next stroke will land exactly on top of the last, which would be very painful indeed.”

In the hours, days and weeks to come and, indeed, years, for she was never to forget this punishment, and she thought of it often, Miss Turnbull would wonder how believable this was. At the time, however, she found it utterly convincing.

“Oh please, headmaster,” she begged. “Can you let me off the second one? I promise I will try harder from now on.”

“I am sure you will,” he replied. “But first you will receive the rest of your punishment. I would advise you to lower your knickers, if you wish me to see what I’m doing.”

“No!”

“Very well.”

She felt the shaft of the cane pressing against the very place that was already tender and sore from the first stroke, exactly as he had warned her.

“Wait!” She cried in panic.

Her hands flew round and she half rose and wrenched her knickers down onto her legs.

“There!” She said, bending back over.

There was quite a long interval before the second stroke followed. Agonising though it was, she would be able to verify later that it landed well clear of the first. She would see in the mirror, and feel with her fingers, two long, parallel welts, a good inch apart.

As she rose back up to standing position, she was mercifully distracted from the awful stinging for a few seconds by the need to get her knickers back up as quickly as possible and her dress and petticoat back down. Having accomplished this, she tried to make herself bring her hands round in front of her, but without success. The headmaster returned the instrument of punishment to its cupboard and then sat down at his desk. He ignored the sobs that were now convulsing the young woman.

“What time is your first lesson tomorrow?” He asked her.

“Nine o’clock, headmaster,” she managed to say. “With Form Four.”

“You may take the rest of the day off, Miss Turnbull,” he told her. “But you will come in at eight o’clock tomorrow morning and we will go over your plan for the lesson with Form Four. Then I will observe the lesson itself.”

“Yes, headmaster, thank you.” She vowed to arrive by ten to eight at the latest.

As she closed his study door and regained the corridor, she found that her cheeks were soaked with tears. She would have to see to her make-up, if possible before she met anyone.

The End

© Hilary Wilmington 2017