Class Discipline

Father Fitzpatrick—history and English. His weapon of
choice was one of those two-sided blackboard erasers. One side
was covered in tightly packed bristles with red, white, and black
stripes, with the other side a thick, soft sponge. The eraser
measured about ten inches in length, just the right length, weight,
and balance, and in the right hands, oozed lethality in his
classroom.

I do not know how Father Fitzpatrick accomplished his
amazing feats with that eraser in his classroom. It must have
taken years of practice or perhaps he spent years in the
Australian outback mastering the ins and outs of throwing a
boomerang with deadly accuracy. Maybe it was jai alai. Whatever
it was, he was deadly accurate with that eraser and could
wipe the smile or smirk off of any one of our faces at any point
or distance in that classroom. Usually it came without warning.
Talking to one of your mates, appearing indolent, daydreaming,
falling asleep, or just plain idleness on the part of one of the
students was cause enough for Father Fitzpatrick to unleash this
kraken of classroom discipline. It would come at you unannounced,
its trajectory well thought out and executed with skill.
The impact was normally just above eye level at the forehead or
hairline. Never directly in the face, mind you. End over end that
eraser would fly, hitting the target sponge side up so as to not
cause any real damage such as a bleeding or a broken nose. How
he could accomplish that, I don’t really know. It was amazing for
when that eraser found its mark, a puff of chalk dust would
explode on impact. It was a sight to behold. The student’s
surprise was wickedly funny with white pancake-like dust all
over his face, up into his nostrils, into his mouth, over his eyes,
all over his hair, and down the front face of his blue blazer. We
didn’t dare laugh.

“Pay attention” was all that Father Fitzpatrick would proffer
to the class in general. To increase the shock value of this unique
form of class management, it could be many days, even weeks,
before Father Fitzpatrick would release his kraken again. We
never knew when it was coming or which poor bastard would be
at the receiving end. Amazing, these priests.

There were also the occasional slaps, ear pinching or pulling,
and other forms of corporal necessity at that school. Some of the
priests were uniquely creative while others reverted to the standard
tried and true but boring means of class discipline and
punishment. The lay associates never laid a hand on us. It must
have been some unwritten rule that only the purveyors of justice
and faith in this faith-based educational system, the priests and
nuns, really knew how to dish it out. Perhaps their direct line to
God gave them the right to impart religious justice and discipline
to the unwashed masses of Catholic boys and girls. In other
words “we will provide you with an education even if we have to
beat it into you.” Unfortunately it did the opposite and accomplished
nothing.

We generally had a good time with all of this. It could be
wickedly funny to watch. And like our experiences with Father
Stack, we did our very best to be discreetly rebellious and to find
the ways and means to undermine the priest’s authority and in
doing so to make some of them, such as Mr Aslin, look weak and
ridiculous.


SJ…Out

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