You Dirty Old Man…

Thanks for the positive feedback on yesterday’s blog about teaching. It created some conversations about school experiences, so I thought I’d just share a couple with you to demonstrate how school life has changed.

I went to school when the cane was used as a form of punishment, but it was abandoned during my high school years. Although we did have one “very nice” male teacher who took great delight in making you bend over so he could give you a wedgie, then flick the edge of a metal ruler down your butt as hard as he could, leaving great welts on your rump.

Can you imagine what would happen today if a teacher did that to a child? The uproar would be unbelievable. There would be demands for heads to role. All manner of counsellors would be employed for the affected students, as well as any other students, teachers, admin staff, neighbours and parents traumatised by the act. And of course the offending teacher would receive serious counselling, legal advice and probably a transfer to a non-classroom environment (or some such political language).

The parents would probably sue the school and the Department of Education, not to mention the teacher. And the media and social media chattering classes would have a field day. And the teacher would deserve all the wrath.

But can you see the following happening in today’s classroom? When I was in 4th class we had a weekly spelling test. Spelling was my best subject, so I looked forward to it. At the end of the test, three kids who had been nominated the previous week, would stand in front of the class and recite a word and its meaning. The students then had to try to spell the words.

The trick was to use words with silent or unexpected letters, such as psychology, or pneumonia, etc.

On this particular Friday the teacher called out the names to the three quiz masters for the day, one of whom was me. But I had forgotten all about it. So I quickly grabbed my trusty Collins Pocket Dictionary – a compulsory school text in those days – and started flicking through to find my word.

At the top of each page in the dictionary was the first word to be defined on that page, printed in bold. So you could quickly scan through the pages looking for a word. I soon found a cracker, but did not have time to read the definition.

“Righto Auld, what’s your word today” called the teacher. I stood tall and in phonetic language started to announce “nime-fo-may-knee-ack”. “A sexual desire in woman…”

“Stop Auld! Stop!” shouted the teacher, as he doubled up in a combination of laughter and horror.

“Come over here young man” he said, as kids in the classroom started to inquire loudly as to my word and its meaning. (nymphomaniac, in case you missed it).
I had a crew-cut in those days, so my forehead was bare. The teacher asked me to lean towards him and he then wrote in blue pen on my forehead, the following upper case letters:

D.O.M. – he whispered in my ear “it stands for Dirty Old Man and you cannot tell anyone but your parents when you get home”.

So thinking this was not unusual, I walked around for the rest of the day with D.O.M. printed boldly on my forehead as a badge of achievement – and am sure I told my mates what it stood for.

My mother asked me why I had the letters on my head and I told her. She was mortified. She wasn’t a bit upset at what the teacher had done, rather she was embarrassed about what I had done. Go figure.

There were no recriminations, my father just laughed and shook his head. In fact my parents couldn’t wait to meet my teacher at the end of year school function, most likely to apologise for my insolence.

Imagine will you, what would happen today if a teacher dared to have a sense of humour and do such an act to a child? In the first instance I suspect I’d be one upset parent and would initially not see the funny side.

The teacher would lose his job, be ostracised by the community – and possibly put on some watch list kept by vigilante parents. Along with all the other things I mentioned for the earlier metal ruler transgression.

But sometimes things work out OK. Today my son in his second day at his new school, had his first basketball training after lunch. He was very keen to get involved, so changed into his sports gear at lunchtime and followed his sister to the courts. He is in year 4, she is in year 5. Close to the end of the training session the Principal of the Primary School came looking for my son.

Seems in his enthusiasm, my son had been training with the year 5 and year 6 kids – he’s a tall lad and nobody questioned him. He was supposed to be in the classroom for an hour after lunch before starting his basketball training and his teacher was frantically looking for him as he had ‘disappeared’.

Full marks to the Principal though. He let my son stay at the court and do his year 4 training as well, so he had an afternoon of basketball. He reckons it was the best part of his first two days at the school. If that’s all he gets up to, I’ll have nought to worry about. But I have the feeling he has inherited some characteristics, so who knows what lies ahead?

One comment

  1. Very entertaining read and shows the great contrast in changing social values. It demonstrates beautifully that our social values are a construction and as such we should always look for opportunities to read against them … Try to stand outside them.
    Glad your son got to play sport all afternoon. 😊

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