Sunday, March 15, 2015

In The Classroom

The following is an excerpt of my expanded childhood autobiography. This story happened in 1952, Munich Germany. Mr Kurtz was my sixth grade teacher. 

Just think, this may not have been the best way to teach respect for authority, but I sure learned it then and I still respect all authority. My parents, my teachers, my boss, my police department, and most of all my God.

Mr. Kurtz was a tough teacher. He had to be. With so many schools bombed out, the class sizes often topped fifty students.
Two kids sat at a slanted desk which had the bench attached to it. Two ink wells holes and a fountain pen rest were on the upper portion of the desk. A little pot of ink nestled in each hole. The aisles between the rows of students went
from front to back and were just wide enough for the teacher to ease through.
Mr. Kurtz often stood at the back of the room to observe his students during dictation or quiz time. He was a stickler for making sure no one dared to do other than the assignment at hand. If one whispered, or even turned their head, he would approach from behind and grab the person by the short hair behind the ears. He’d pull quietly and steadily upward until the lad was in a standing position. Then for good measure he pulled a little higher.
His pointing stick, a thin hardwood rod, also substituted as a formidable disciplinarian. To receive this prize of correction for your mis- deeds, one had to stand before the class, stand erect, hold out your right hand horizontally, and receive a minimum of six lashes. The fingers smarted mightily after such a licking. Every fin- ger swelled and together the whole hand trem- bled. However, pain or trembling was no excuse for poor penmanship. Penmanship was always graded, and proper spelling was always ex- pected whenever we wrote anything at school, including notes and homework.
One day, during a class-wide written test, with the teacher seemingly busy at his desk, I
thought it safe enough to get a boy’s attention in the next row; for what reason I don’t remember. Mr. Kurtz spotted my misdeed as I reached across the isle with my foot to touch the other fellow’s leg. I didn’t realize how big a crime I had committed until he called me to the front of the class. As soon as I stood before him he gave me a wicked blow across the face with the back of his right hand. This made my nose bleed pro- fusely. I stood at the classroom’s corner sink as blood poured out of my nose. For many minutes I dripped while the rest of the class finished the test.
I was still bent over the sink after the lunch bell rang and everybody had left the classroom. I do not recall when the bleeding finally sub- sided, but my mother and the school’s headmas- ter came to the classroom and called Mr. Kurtz out into the hall. As Mother and I exchanged quick glances, I could tell she would have liked to mete out a lashing herself. Not to me, but to the teacher.
That evening at home I asked Mom how she knew I had been struck across the face. As it turned out, a friend of mine gave up her lunch period to run home to tell my mother. That friend was Monika.

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