School’s winding down for kids who are mostly about 100 years younger than me, and when I thought about that, I thought about the teachers I had those many years ago. And it kind of pisses me off.
There were those nuns, of course, who helped guide and direct by giving me several good strappings on the hand after I got sassy or said a bad word or snapped a girl’s bra strap when she least expected it. So I guess I deserved it, and if you must know, there’s nothing like a nice piece of quarter-inch black leather whipped across the palms of the hands to help someone settle down and learn more.
Most of all, I remember Mr. Canning from grade six. I suppose Mr. Canning was probably in his mid-20s, although I never thought about it at the time. He had greased-back Elvis hair and was probably a kind, gentle soul on parent-teacher night. I seem to recall, although it’s fuzzy, that he sometimes had his good days. But I can clearly recall his bad days.
You see, Mr. Canning got mad at us when we were sassy or said a bad word or snapped a girl’s bra strap, but I can’t ever remember him using the strap. Nope, he never used the strap. Mr. Canning made his point a different way.
You’d first get the hint you were in trouble because his face turned beet red. Then he’d slowly walk down the aisle toward you, and the room grew quiet. His hands would then gently touch the top of your head, and you could feel the fingers wrapping themselves around your hair. After that, it wasn’t a great feeling as he lifted you up, right out of your seat, almost with feet leaving the ground, by the hair. Then he shook and shook and shook, and finally would slam you back down into your desk.
Geez, did that hurt. You wondered if he’d pulled your hair right out of your skull. Your head hurt for hours. So did your pride. Mr. Canning did this to most of the boys.
However, the guy wasn’t a one-trick pony. I guess sometimes he got tired of pulling boys out of their seats by the hair. Sometimes, when he got mad, he would simply stay at the front of the class and throw blackboard erasers, the ones made of wood, as hard as he could at our faces. Mr. Canning was probably a pretty good baseball player, because more times than not, he connected with a fastball eraser square between our eyes. I mean, that must have taken talent.
Mr. Canning taught in the days when teachers could pretty well pummel and torture students and get away with it. Sure, he was a quick-tempered madman, and I suppose he was unusual, even for those times.
He’d be in big trouble nowadays. First, he’d be removed from his teaching position very quickly. A police investigation would begin. Parents would be up in arms. Mr. Canning would retain a lawyer and his defence would be that children have great imaginations and naturally tell stories that the parents would interpret in an adult way, making it sound worse than it was. The lawyer might argue that the parents had other issues with Mr. Canning and they used their kids as a way to get him fired. He could win or lose, depending on his defence.
Two things are for sure. Mr. Canning’s lucky he taught when he did, because I’m assuming he got away with what he did. He’s also lucky he taught only grade-sixers. If he had taught high school kids, he just might have got his ass kicked.