Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Teacher Bully

So by now you have started school. Maybe middle school is pleasant...maybe you hate it. Maybe you are picked on...maybe you do the bullying yourself.

Whatever your situation, this is a true story of the first day of junior high, gym class, and a teacher bully.

It was in Austin in 1970. I was in my first day of 7th grade at Burnet Junior High School. There were about 45 seventh grade boys in gym class for the first time. We all came into the gym, sat down on the floor, and waited for two ordinary-looking gym coaches to tell us what to do. The shorter one (I'll call him Coach Evil) waited until the bell rang. Then he took his whistle and blew the loudest noise a human being can make with a whistle. It actually HURT to be in the gym. It sure accomplished two things quickly: 1. we all quit talking; 2. we paid attention really quickly.

Coach Evil began yelling at us. He told us that we were supposed to have gym clothes by tomorrow. He told us what would happen if we forgot. He told us how we would be graded. He told us and told us and told us. Problem was...he didn't tell us anything...he SCREAMED everything at us. Then this strange little man actually asked if any of us had any one did (surprised?). Then he and the other coach (who was actually my gym teacher but I wasn't about to say anything) told us to sit quietly on the floor of the gym until the bell rang...35 minutes later. Then Coach Evil and the other coach left the gym...and left 45 seventh grade boys all alone in a huge empty gym.

We sat quietly and still for about 30 seconds. Then we VERY quietly began talking to each other. Then we began having normal conversations. Then we began moving around. It didn't take too long before we were running around and playing...not hurting anything...just being normal boys.

Five minutes before the end of the period, the coaches came back in the room. In Coach Evil's hand was the largest wooden paddle I had ever seen. Once again, he blew his whistle and all of us ran to sit down. He began screaming, "Who was running around and not following my directions?" No one answered him. He repeated himself. No one answered him.

Then he began going down the line of us and choosing "volunteers" for a demonstration. He lined us up, had us turn our backs on our fellow students, and grab our ankles. (Of course, I was one of the ones he chose.) He hit each of us just one time with that enormous paddle. He almost lifted me off the floor. I staggered back to my seat, but I didn't sit down. Then he told us, "That's what happens to people who don't listen to my rules." Then he and the other coach (who had been smiling all through the demonstration) left us alone again.

It is said that something good can come out of something bad. I began to understand that on that terrible day. Boys I had never even met before came over to me and made sure I was okay. Everyone checked on all the guys who had been paddled. Some of them were crying, but no one made fun of anyone. Instead, we had guys telling the crying boys, "It's okay" and "You were really brave" and stuff like that.

I had trouble sitting the rest of the day. To this day, I am totally against corporal punishment in schools (but I have no problems with parents spanking their children under CERTAIN conditions).

To this day, I still have a problem with bullies. I really hate them. I really hate people in authority who are bullies. I have been called loud, unusual, weird, and maybe even a little crazy...but I am NOT a bully (or at least I try not to abuse my authority).

One more thing...I NEVER told my parents what happened. I just kept it inside me forever. I wonder what would have happened if I had said something at dinner that night....


  1. If I were you I would have told my mom about everything! Since my mom doesn't believe the right way to desipline a child is by spanking them [Note:she has never hit me], she would sue the teacher if she/he ever tried to hurt me in any way imaginable. That is one reason I wouldn't trade my mom for any other mom, that and the fact that I love her.
    PS. I also think the coaches who were smiling through the whole thing are really cruel!

  2. Back in the days when this happened, teachers were regularly allowed (and even encouraged) to spank students. If your mother tried to sue them back then, she would have been laughed out of court. Also, the school would have labeled her as "troublesome."

    Things have changed! And I am glad for it.


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