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Paddling a Perfect Panacea

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on April 30, 1994


by Roz Young


            Lately events have brought to my mind a chap named Alonzo. He is the only boy I ever had paddled in a 30-year teaching career. It was in the days when disciplining a child was not considered violating his civil rights.

            The school was a consolidated high school in Clinton County. We had about 150 students in the whole high school, and I taught English and spelling to all of them and Latin to a few.

            Alonzo was a brown-haired, blue-eyed ninth grader, rather overweight and flabby.

            When the class period was about half over the first day of school, from an area near the back of the room came the sound of a gargantuan belch, gaseous and gurgling. All the kids in the room laughed.

            I was dumbfounded. I had never heard such a noise before. In my family people didn't belch. Any kind of noise coming from the body, even a stomach growl, was bad manners and forbidden.

            I looked hard in the direction from which it had come, but everybody's eyes were bent to a book on the desk, giving no clue who was the culprit. I decided not to make an issue of it.

            The next day at about the same time, came another juicy explosion, followed by whoops of delight by the class. This I could not ignore, so I gave the class a lecture on what was suitable for the classroom and what should be confined to the bathroom if indeed, it was necessary at all. Some of the class members looked pointedly at Alonzo, and he had a smirk on his face that spoke eloquently.

            I was watching the following day and sure enough, it was Alonzo, and the belch was a classic. I took him out in the hall and gave him a real lecture. He said nothing, but when we went back into the classroom, he belched again, a rousing, arrogant belch. A teacher dares not tolerate that kind of behavior. I felt my career was threatened. Teachers who lose control of their classes cam be driven right out the classroom and out of a job. I had read that in my classroom management text book.

            Every noon before the afternoon session, all the teachers congregated around a radiator in the hall and exchanged pleasantries while the kids were out on the playground. I brought up the subject of Alonzo's belching.

            "Oh, we all know about Alonzo," said the eighth-grade teacher. "He has a serious digestive problem, and he can't help it."

The other teachers nodded. "Alonzo has been belching since the first grade. It's just something you have to put up with. We've all had in him in class, and he always has belched."

            "Well, he's not going to belch in my room," I said. "I don't believe he can't help it."

            They all laughed. "You'll learn," one teacher said.

            I took the problem to Carl Boring, the superintendent of the school. "He's doing it deliberately,": I said. "After every belch he smirks, and the class howls. Yesterday it was right in the middle of 'Crossing the bar - Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me' belch!"

            Carl considered. "What do you think should be done?"

            "I've talked with him. I appealed to him. I've told him the belching must stop. But it doesn't. I think he needs a paddling."

            "All right. Next time he belches, you give him one more chance. Tell him if it doesn't stop, you are going to          have him paddled. Then if he belches again, let me know."

            I followed Carl's instruction. That was on Thursday of the first week of school.

            On Friday he belched in the middle of Thanatopsis.

            After class the whole school went out to the playground for a field day. "Alonzo belched again," I told Carl.

            "All right," he said, and in a moment he found Alonzo on the edge of the crowd watching. The two started for the office. I went with them.

            When we started into the school, Alonzo asked, "What's this about?"

            "You are going to get a paddling for belching in Miss McPherson's class. You were warned."

            Alonzo started to run away. Carl went after him. "I won't go," Alonzo said, "You can't make me."

            "Can't I?" Carl picked all 120 pounds of the kid and started to carry him into the office. Alonzo grabbed the edge of the door. "Let go," Carl said, "or I'll drop you."

            Alonzo did not let go. Carl dropped him.

            Carl showed him his paddle, a wooden one about 3 feet long and 4 inches wide. "I will give you one whack with this, and if you ever belch again in this school, you will get six whacks. Bend over the desk."

            Alonzo bent over. Carl hit him, a good whack.

            "Ow!" yelled Alonzo.

            "You may now go back to the field day," said Carl.

            Alonzo never belched in my class again. He even stopped belching in the other teachers' classes. He still wasn't belching when I left Clinton County for the green fields of Dayton schools two years later. I doubt very much whether his life was ruined.