Note: The names in the following story have been changed to protect the parties involved. Except mine of course. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed by now.
If the story I’m about to recount had taken place in 2006 or even 1996 everyone involved would have probably been fired. But this was a different time, a different place. This was 1985, and the place was Greenfield, Ohio. Read on …
It was mid-morning and I was teaching Reading at the time. Teaching Reading was great because they basically let me write my own curriculum, which is either downright horrifying or spectacularly exciting, depending on your viewpoint and opinion of me as a professional educator. Let’s just say I created some unorthodox lessons plans, such as deciphering the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie”, or “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” by my beloved Beatles. Hey, there’s nothing more fun than explaining what John Lennon meant when he wrote “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” or “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye” to a bunch of impressionable 13-year olds.
Anyway, I was in the middle of class when I heard the principal’s voice over my intercom: “Mr. Shoemaker, you’re needed in the high school office immediately.” I responded, “Sure, let me get someone to cover my class and I’ll . . .” At that point I was interrupted. “Never mind that, just get over here right away.”
I immediately walked/jogged to the office, mind racing as I went. What the hell had I done? Was it taking the kids to the roof for that lesson last week (don’t ask)? Was it discussing evolution? Was it letting that kid walk over to the Kahlua Cream to grab me a milkshake the other afternoon? Was letting that JH football player take a spin around the block in my car so wrong? Since I usually did 2-3 things a week that could be considered controversial, the possibilities were endless. Alas, when I arrived at the office my fears were allayed.
I walked in the door, and in the corner stood Joe, a high school kid who had been in a lot of trouble, mostly involving physical altercations. Joe was sort of in a crouched position, looking around wildly, waiting to pounce on the first person brave enough to approach him. Watching him was my principal and the high school football coach, who had also apparently been called in as an enforcer along with yours truly. At this point my principal looks at me, grinning, and says,”Mr. Shoemaker, Joe here took a swing at Mrs. Blipnoid (not her real name) and he’s refusing to take his whoopin’.”
Keep in mind these were the days when paddling, or corporal punishment as it was called, was commonplace. Joe then demanded to speak to his father, but my principal had other ideas. He said, “Tell you what. I’ll call Charlie myself.”
My principal knew every single person in town, I kid you not. He then proceeded to call Joe’s dad, explains the situation, listens, and hangs up the phone. He then looks at Joe, grins maniacally and says, “Looks like the whoopin’s a go, Joe.”
At that point Joe knows the deal and decides to go for broke. He leaps over the desk and makes a break for the door, except I was in front of the door. Before he runs me over the football coach steps over and sort of blindsides the kid (using perfect form tackle I might add) and takes him down in one fell swoop. As this is happening the principal clears everything off his desk with one sweep of his giant paddle. The football coach and I then proceed to body slam Joe facedown on the desk. The principal then proceeds to paddle Joe by raising his paddle over his head, swinging straight down, while using both hands. If I recall it was 4-whacks give or take a whack. We then let Joe up, he apologized, shook our hands, and went back to class. No suspension, in-school restriction, Saturday school, nothing.
If it happened today we’d all be on 60-Minutes trying to explain ourselves. Back then? Just another day at Greenfield McClain.
Hey, I told you it was a different time.
Originally published on June 19th, 2012.