Shadows of the Classroom


Peter Pickering

5/11/20242 min read

1960's School Master in black cloak and mortarboard hat
1960's School Master in black cloak and mortarboard hat

In the hallowed halls of learning where shadows fell deep,
My youth marked by echoes of corporal discipline's sweep.
In Aden, at twelve, post-exam success so bright,
I witnessed a horror that turned day into night.

Our math teacher, in a fury, wielded control,
A blackboard T-square shattered, not just wood, but a soul.
A classmate, the victim, his back bore the mark,
As the teacher's rage thundered in a classroom stark.

Can you fathom today, such violent reign?
In another era, it would bring a jail's chain.
This trauma inflicted under educational guise,
Leaves me wondering about the boy, his future under those skies.

With undiagnosed neurodiversity, my senses sharp and raw,
Each act of violence deepened the fear I saw.
Mr. Burns, with his stern centurion's glare,
Threatened to hang us in the air,

By bootlaces from the ceiling, a tyrant in the room,
His presence weaving through the air, a tapestry of gloom.
Latin verbs haunted, "Amo, amas, amat,"
Yet in my mind screamed, "odi, odisti, odit," where I sat.

Returning to England, to Bemrose's halls,
Where silence ruled the classrooms and adjacent walls.
Masters in black cloaks wielded "The Slipper,"
A punishment delivered to any offending nipper.

Spanked before classmates, a spectacle of fear,
My neurodiverse mind trapped, yearning to disappear.
This punitive culture, so stark and so bleak,
Marked each day I endured, making me weak.

Shadows of the Classroom

At Derby’s Queen Street Baths, the rules harsh and plain,
"No bathers allowed," they declared again and again.
My rebellion was silent, refusal my shield,
Though it earned me more punishment in that watery field.

The shadows of memory, dark and long,
Carry the echoes of that age-old song.
Of discipline harsh in the guise of care,
Leaving scars invisible, yet painfully bare.

In the silence of reflection, with a coffee's warmth near,
The past meets the present, and the lessons are clear.
To listen to the whispers of those quiet pleas,
And offer understanding with greater ease.

For the boy at the desk and the man now grown,
The journey has shown how much I've flown.
From shadows to sunlight, from fear to fight,
Moving from darkness into the light.

© Peter Pickering 2024.