What a belter as a teaching strategy

12th September 2008 at 01:00

Call me a namby-pamby, politically correct, wet, liberal pinko if you like, but I am glad I began teaching after the belt was banned. Ask me whether I wish I had begun schooling after the belt was banned and I am ambivalent.

On the plus side, I would have been more relaxed in second-year art. Our teacher, Mr Bates, who ran a motel with his never-seen mother in his spare time, belted the class hard man for burping. He gave him three, though the boy was howling after one. On the other hand, geography would have been much less fun for four years.

Let's call my teacher Mr Lumen. He was a big, bald man with a booming English accent. Scarily, he addressed all the boys by their surnames. "Steeeeeeeeeele!" How did he manage to make the vowel sounds resonate like that?

Years later, I worked in the same school as Mr Lumen and found him to be very much one of the good guys. As a teacher, he was well-liked too, despite, or perhaps because of, his very own classroom gameshow which he named "Beat the Belt!"

The rules were simple. Everyone in the class was asked a question on the current topic. Get it right and all was well. Err and you were through to the next round. You had to stand up. Once all the class had been quizzed, all those standing got another question. Correct - sit down. Wrong and it was out to the front of the class.

The front of Mr Lumen's class was also the location of the Magic Square, a nine inch by nine inch floor tile. Those guilty of minor indiscretions could avoid further punishment by remaining on it for five minutes. How we laughed as our classmates swayed on jelly legs!

Back to "Beat the Belt!" Those at the front were then given three questions. To beat the belt, you had to get at least two correct. Pupils genuinely looked forward to this exciting, informative teaching strategy. It only pains me that as a would-be scientist, I lacked the observational skills to notice that Mr Lumen, in all the time I was in his class, always engineered things so that he never had to belt a single player.

Gregor Steele had he been given the authority to belt, would probably have turned out to be a useless tawser.

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