Katie’s footsteps echoed down the empty corridor as she approached Mr. Spencer’s room. Aside from the few stray pencils and scraps of paper that seemed to accumulate every day the wing was deserted. Thank goodness, she thought. It was silly, she tried to convince herself, her whole history class had heard him order her to return after school. With the typical speed of rumours, the entire student body must know by now. She could just imagine the whispered conversations between lessons: “Have you heard? Goody-two-shoes Katie has gotten herself detention!” She shuddered with humiliation. She had been relieved to be able to slip away into the privacy of the toilets after her last lesson until the typical after-school hubub had died down. It was one thing for everyone to know, but it would have been something else altogether to have to endure the stares and giggles as she made the walk of shame.
Even without the attention of her fellow students, the walk felt endless. Even still, all too soon she arrived at his door, knocked softly, and opened it to her doom.
Mr Spencer looked up from behind his desk, gazing at her for a moment over the rims of his spectacles as she fidgeted nervously on the threshold.
“You’re late,” he said simply.
“Yes, Sir,” Katie replied, staring at her shoes. “I. . . I didn’t want. . . I didn’t want them to see.”
Mr. Spencer smiled, almost apologetically. “I see. It appears you are learning a bit of humility. It will do you good.”
Katie shuffled her feet and kept her eyes on the floor, not knowing what to say. Mr. Spencer had taught her many things over the years. She had thought, being only a few days from graduation, that she had about reached the end of what he could teach her. He had his tawse had proven her ever so wrong only a few hours ago.
Mr Spencer spared her from replying by summoning her to stand before him.
Katie closed the door behind her and made her way down the row of desks to the front of the room. She faltered a bit, remembering how she had made this same trek twice already that day. The desks had not been empty then. Whispers had followed her the first time, but a shocked silence had set in before her final trip. She wasn’t sure which was worse.
The silence of the empty classroom was hardly easier to bear.
As she stood before his desk, she could barely meet his eyes. This same man who had been her friend, whom she had confided in when she needed advice, who had supported her through the awkwardness that comes with growing up, now intimidated her. Not as much as he had earlier, with his tawse poised to strike, but still intimidated her. Katie wondered if this was how most students felt in his presence. He had a reputation for strictness, though Katie, or at least the her usual rule-minding self, had never had reason to fear that side of him.
“What has gotten into you today, Katie?” he asked, not unkindly.
She tried and failed to look up again, settling for staring at his hands which were now folded before him. It wasn’t just fear, she realised, it was her own shame. What had possessed her to cause so much trouble? She had never received so much as a reprimand in all her years of school, and today that record had been spectacularly shattered.
She wanted to blame Mr. Swanson, her calculus teacher. He had to have known when he had set the his lengthy assignment the previous week that completing it on time was impossible- at least for Katie, who also had Mr. Spencer’s honours history essay to finish that week. Both her teachers had been very understanding before, and an extension may have been worked out.
That thought, however, had not occurred to Katie earlier that day, as she saw in the back of Mr. Spencer’s room scribbling furiously in a last-minute attempt to complete the never-ending list of calculus exercises before her next class. Katie had thought it an excellent way to optimise the time she had available- she had already read this week’s history assignment and could get on just fine only half-listening to Mr. Spencer’s lecture.
Mr. Spencer did not see it that way, and had voiced his difference of opinion only minutes after the start of the class. “Focus, please. All other work away,” he had said pleasantly, assuming, of course, that the quiet star student would obey as she always did.
Katie had looked up briefly, long enough to meet Mr. Spencer’s eye offer a small, apologetic smile, and wait for him to turn back to the detailed map he had been annotating on the blackboard. However, she made no move to close her exercise book, and carried on as soon as the teacher’s eyes were averted.
Sure, she had seen his glare as he turned from the blackboard, but everyone knew that was all he ever did. It was usually enough to deter any further trouble, but had proven singularly ineffective today. He had proceeded to warn her- by name, no less- to close her books and put her unfinished homework away, and while the rest of the class had turned to look back at her, she had ignored him. She had not believed he would do anything more.
But she had been wrong, and she had been summoned not five minutes later to the front of the room. To her horror, she saw him reach into his desk drawer and pull out a tawse. She had known it was there- every teacher had one- but she had never seen it in his hand before. “I don’t normally resort to methods like these,” he told Katie evenly, “but with exams only a week away it is critical that you focus while in my classroom. It is not fair that your classmates suffer from a loss of instruction time as I’m dealing with you, and so I think a quick correction is called for.” He had regarded her sadly but sternly as he ordered her to hold out her right hand. She complied, embarrassed but entirely unprepared for the pain she was about to receive. She hissed with shock as the first stroke landed, and bit her tongue for the next two. Her left hand shook as she held it out as ordered, and she struggled to keep herself from withdrawing it as he delivered three more equally painful strokes.
Palms and ego smarting, she had returned to her seat fuming, unable to exercise her usual control over her emotions, panicked as she was at the thought of having to turn in an incomplete assignment in her next class. She huffed as she closed her books, but only briefly, opening them again surreptitiously in her lap under the desk. After a quick glance to the front of the room to see if Mr. Spencer had noticed her attempt at deception, she began working again.
“Katie!” Mr Spencer’s voice cut her rant prematurely short. “Back up front, I can see you need a bit more attention. And bring that with you.”
Katie had all but stomped down the aisle that time. Thinking back, she could see that it was silly, but at the moment she couldn’t see past her anger and frustration. The emotions roiled unchecked within her, turning the normally quiet and obedient girl into a teenage brat.
She held out her hands almost defiantly, and Mr. Spencer met her challenge, delivering three strokes to each hand just as he had a few moments ago before sending her back to her seat with a stern warning, “Miss Winston, I advise you to pay close attention for the remainder of this lesson. You will not like the consequences should you choose to behave otherwise. And hand over that exercise book,” he asked.
“No- you can’t! You have no right!” Katie protested, quite a bit more loudly than she would have normally intended.
“Remove yourself from this classroom,” Mr. Spencer replied calmly. “Stand outside facing the wall until the bell rings. Come see me after your final lesson to discuss your attitude today.” He turned his back to her and resumed his writing at the board as Katie stomped down the aisle. Katie gathered her things as quickly as she could, and took care to slam the door behind her. With a huff, she set down her bag, turned to the wall, and tried to continue working.
At first, Katie had felt relieved to have a quiet place to work, but unfortunately that feeling did not last. As she sat in the relative silence of the corridor, the scene she had caused played over and over in her head, wearing through her blind panic about the unfinished exercises. What had she done? She had never before disobeyed or spoken back to a teacher in all her years of schooling. She had looked down on those who had, wondering what they could possibly be thinking. Now beginning to have the same feelings about herself, she felt tears start to trickle down her cheeks and was grateful that the corridor remained empty. Even if her lack of work had earned her some sort of punishment from Mr. Swanson, it would doubtless be light, given her record. And deserved, she realised, thinking back to the evenings over the last week where she had returned home far too late, choosing to wile away her time in chatter with her friends rather than prioritise her schoolwork.
As the bell rang, she quickly dried her face and scampered off to her next class.
“What’s gotten into you Katie?” Mr Spencer asked again, bringing her mind back to the empty classroom. “I never would have imagined that you were capable of such defiance. Is there something that you need to talk about?”
Katie thought- as she had been thinking all day- and tried to find some reasonable excuse for her behaviour. “No, sir, but. . .It’s silly, isn’t it? We’re only going to be your students for a few more days. Even the dress code has been relaxed. I was just having a bit of fun last week, and didn’t quite finish my homework.”
“True, though there are some rules- particularly those concerning respect- that remain in place. In fact, they become even more critical at this time. After all your time here, what do you think matters more- one assignment, or your personal relationships with your teachers?” Mr. Spencer sighed.
“Yes, sir,” Katie replied before adding sulkily, “but you didn’t need to be so mean about it.” Mr Spencer’s eyes narrowed as Katie clasped her hands to her mouth, wishing she could take the words back and wondering where they came from in the first place.
“Katie, I have grown very fond of you over the years. I hope you know that. However, you are still my student and I still have a duty to ensure that you learn to behave yourself. What’s more, I have a duty to the all my students to ensure that no one disrupts my class. I have very high expectations for you. I had hoped that a warning would be sufficient today, but you proved me wrong. I had also hoped that it would not be necessary to continue your punishment tonight, though I can see from your attitude that assumption was incorrect as well. I know that you are capable of keeping your emotions in check, but it appears that you need a bit of a reminder today. Bend over the desk.”
The command, as had the rest of the scolding, came quietly, calmly. For a moment Katie wondered if she had misunderstood, but Mr Spencer was already walking around to the other side of his desk, tawse in hand.
Katie gulped and, for once that day, complied without complaint.
“Good girl,” Mr. Spencer said as he took up position behind her. “I think just three over your skirt will suffice, though any argument or attitude will earn you more. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Katie replied. She gripped the edge of the desk tightly, wondering yet again what had prompted her outburst. Her musings were cut short as the tawse seared into her behind. Even through her skirt, the pain made her gasp. The next two strokes came quickly, and while Katie was glad that it had not been drawn out as some of the punishments she had witnessed in class, the rapid strokes left her panting as she struggled to process the accompanying sensations.
“You may rise now,” Mr Spencer told her, already seated again behind the desk. Katie gingerly rubbed her throbbing bottom and for a moment the only sound was the scratching of Mr. Spencer’s pen. Once Katie had tamed the fire in her behind a bit, she glanced over to see what he was writing. The sight of the paper made her stomach sink. “Corporal Punishment Notice” was printed in large letters across the top of the form. Katie had seen such forms before, but had never received one herself. With horrified fascination, she walked around to the other side of the desk to read the form more closely.
“Sir,” she started, as politely as she could, “do you. . . I mean. . . my parents. . . they said that if I ever. . .”
Mr. Spencer looked up, confused at first, but then gave her a sad knowing smile as he understood what she was trying unsuccessfully to ask.
“They need to know,” he said firmly. “However,” he continued in a softer voice, “you have been through a lot today. You have also earned my trust over your years here, and although I am disappointed in your behaviour today you have not lost that trust. I won’t add a date to the form. You must show your parents, but you can choose to wait a few days to allow yourself time to recover. Be warned though, I expect to see the note signed and returned within the week.”
“Yes, Sir. Of course,” Katie replied. Her gratitude at the reprieve was short-lived. How does one choose a day to be spanked? Is there ever a good day for a spanking? If there was, it was yet another thing she had yet to learn.