This is a recollection about punishment when a 4th grader.
St. Joseph School was an elementary school with two small buildings looking onto a long school-playing yard. One of the buildings, with grades 1 to 4 was at the top of the hill. The other building, at the bottom of the hill, housed grades 5 to 8. These were wood framed buildings made into classrooms on the lower floors. The upper floors housed the teachers, who were Le Soeurs de L’assumption, French-speaking nuns from Canada. All of the teachers spoke both English and French, though most had heavy Canadian French accents.
I was in the 4th grade when Henry Porter got caught taking candy out of the glass jar that sat behind Sister Georges Edmund’s desk. Henry was placed in the corner, facing the wall, as his punishment. The rest of us were told to ignore Henry and to get back to our work. Sister said that when boys and girls do bad things, it is a responsibility for adults to give punishment. Punishment was necessary to let a child know not to repeat bad things. To impress this idea on us and to justify Henry standing in the corner, sister told us a story about a child who was not punished.
There was a 10-year-old girl who did a lot of bad things most of which her parents chose to ignore. The parents seemed to have the idea that, “Girls will be girls.” Unfortunately, the young girl took ill and died. Her parents were bereft and visited the young girl’s grave following her burial. Mother and father were kneeling in prayer beside their daughter’s grave, when, to their astonishment, they saw that their daughter’s hand had broken through the ground and was pointing at them. Horrified, and in panic, they rushed off to the rectory.
As they were so distraught they were ushered into the pastor’s office. The pastor listened intently to the story of the young girl’s hand surfacing from her grave. The pastor knew the parents and their daughter. After listening to the story, the pastor, renowned for his wisdom, gave the parents instructions of what to do.
Armed with the pastor’s instructions the parents returned to their daughter’s grave. They knelt by the grave and their daughter’s hand reappeared and pointed at them as before. As instructed by the pastor, the mother and then the father reached out and, in turn, slapped the child’s hand. Slowly, their daughter’s hand withdrew to her grave.
Still, I hated Henry standing in the corner.