I’ve kept a shameful secret since the 5th grade. It was 1972, I was 10 years old, Mr. Hayman, my teacher, was 22 years old, and right out of college. I thought he looked like Bobby Sherman, and had a huge crush on him.. He used innovative teaching techniques, such as “Small Town” a class project kind of like the game Life, where each student chose to go to college, get a job, or run a business, we each received “pay checks” in different amounts, and made life choices. When the weather was nice we’d have our lesson outside, and he was so cool he let us listen to our favorite music while we worked, even receiving a reprimand for playing Don McClean’s “American Pie” in class. (I assume for alcohol references, but I’m not sure).
Anyway, needless to say, I did well in his class, worked hard, paid attention, and was always on my best behavior. At the parent/teacher conference, he told my mother that he had only one concern about me, and that, was that I was so quiet…..I know, those of you who know me now, will never believe that, but it’s true. I never spoke in class. I was terrified of getting in trouble, and that’s why, what happened next, was such a surprise.
Although Mr. Hayman was a really “ccol” teacher, he was also very strict, and unless the lesson was structured for open participation, he had a strict “no talking” policy. If you got caught speaking out of turn in class your name was put on the blackboard. A second offense and your name was circled. If you were brave enough to talk in class a third time in the same day, you were taken out in the hallway to get “cracked” with Mr. Hayman’s paddle, which had several holes in it, and hung ominously on the wall in his classroom. (Yes, I am old enough that spanking was still an accepted form of punishment in public schools.)
So for some reason this particular day, I got my name on the board for the first time that year, and a little while later, much to my embarrassment, my name was circled on the board. When I got caught talking for a 3rd time that day, Mr. Hayman looked almost as distressed as I felt as he slowly lifted the paddle from it’s hook on the wall, and followed me out into the hallway. I heard the classroom door click shut behind me, and waited for Mr. Hayman to say the humiliating and terrifying words that would follow “Grab your ankles”. I was already sobbing, as much from humiliation, as from fear.
And then….his next words surprised me. “Tari,” he said, “I just can’t do this…..turn around, and lift up your foot.” I didn’t really understand, but I wasn’t about to question him, so I just did as I was told. My teacher grabbed my foot upside down, and slapped the sole of my shoe with the paddle so that it made a loud cracking sound that echoed in the empty hallway, loud enough for my classmates to hear, but didn’t hurt.
“Now, go to the bathroom, wash your face, and don’t you ever tell anyone that I didn’t spank you…….DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” he demanded in a stern voice. I nodded still sobbing, although now with a measure of relief, went to the restroom, washed my face, and slowly went back to the classroom where Mr. Hayman was already involved in the lesson. All heads turned my way as I opened the door, and quietly slipped into my seat with my eyes cast down. I never told anyone my little secret….not that they would have believed me anyway with my puffy red eyes, and damp red face. I never talked out of turn in class again…..and I never told anyone my secret…..until now…….