Joe’s whoopin’; problem solved


Author’s note — The names in the following story have been changed to protect the parties involved. Except mine, of course. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed by now.

If the story I’m about to recount had taken place in 2006 or even 1996, everyone involved would have probably been fired. But this was a different time, a different place. This was 1985, and the place was Greenfield, Ohio…

It was mid-morning and I was teaching reading at the time. Teaching reading was great because they basically let me write my own curriculum, which is either downright horrifying or spectacularly exciting, depending on your viewpoint and opinion of me as a professional educator. Let’s just say I created some unorthodox lessons plans, such as deciphering the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie“, or “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” by my beloved Beatles.

Hey, there’s nothing more fun than explaining what John Lennon meant when he wrote, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” or “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye” to a bunch of impressionable 13-year-olds.

Good times.

Anyway, I was in the middle of class when I heard the principal’s voice over my intercom: “Mr. Shoemaker, you’re needed in the high school office immediately.” I responded, “Sure, let me get someone to cover my class and I’ll …” At that point I was interrupted. “Never mind that, just get over here right away.”


I immediately speed walked/jogged to the office, mind racing as I went. What the hell had I done? Was it taking the kids to the roof for that lesson last week (don’t ask)? Was it discussing evolution? Was it letting that kid walk over to the Kahlua Cream to grab me a milkshake the other afternoon? Since I usually did two to three things a week that could be considered controversial, the possibilities were endless. Alas, when I arrived at the office my fears were allayed.

I walked in the door and in the corner stood Joe, a high school kid who had been in a lot of trouble, mostly involving physical altercations. Joe was sort of in a crouched position, looking around wildly, waiting to pounce on the first person brave enough to approach him. Watching him was my principal and the high school football coach, who had also apparently been called in as an enforcer along with yours truly. At this point my principal looked at me, grinning, and said,”Mr. Shoemaker, Joe here took a swing at Mrs. Blipnoid (not her real name) and he’s refusing to take his whoopin’.”

Keep in mind these were the days when paddling, or corporal punishment as it was called, was commonplace. Joe then demanded to speak to his father, but my principal had other ideas. He said, “Tell you what. I’ll call Charlie myself.”

My principal knew every single person in town, I kid you not. He then proceeded to call Joe’s dad, explained the situation, listened, and hung up the phone. He then looked at Joe, grinned maniacally and said, “Looks like the whoopin’s a go, Joe.”

What can I say? My principal had a way with words.

At that point Joe knew the deal and decided to go for broke. He made a break for it. He leaped over the desk and headed for the door, except I was in front of the door. Before he ran me over the football coach stepped over and sort of blindsided the kid (using perfect form tackling I might add) and took him down in one fell swoop. As this was happening the principal cleared everything off his desk with one sweep of his giant paddle. The football coach and I then sort of body slammed Joe face down on the desk. The principal actually proceeded to paddle Joe by raising the board over his head, swinging straight down, while using both hands. If I recall it was four whacks give or take a whack. As I also recall the sound sort of reminded me of the sound a Bushmaster M17S rifle makes when fired, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, we then proceeded to let Joe up, he apologized, shook our hands, and went back to class. No suspension, no in-school restriction, no Saturday school, no nothing.

Problem solved.

If it happened today Joe’s parents would have been outraged and we’d all be on “6 On Your Side” trying to explain ourselves. Back then? Just another day at Greenfield McClain.

Hey, I told you it was a different time.

Dave Shoemaker is a retired teacher, athletic director and basketball coach with most of his professional years spent at Paint Valley. He also served as the national basketball coach for the island country of Montserrat in the British West Indies. He lives in southern Ohio with his best friends and companions, his dogs Sweet Lilly and Hank. He can be reached at

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