The Punishment

KindergartenShe attended a Protestant Lutheran kindergarten, but the girl didn’t know that, nor did she concern herself much with religion. Her mother reminded her to pray every evening, but they usually only went to church at Christmas.


The nursery teachers were called “aunt” or “Tante” in German, as was the custom. They played with the children, read to them and taught them how to make things out of coloured paper, cardboard or natural materials, but the kids weren’t taught how to read or write until they started primary school.


The girl enjoyed going to kindergarten and looked forward to it every weekday morning. This morning, she carried her small leather satchel containing a sandwich and an apple and a heavy bag with horse chestnuts and acorns, collected the previous afternoon. Today they would be crafting items from conkers and acorns. After morning prayers, the children sat down and received their crafting materials, such as matchsticks, glue and crafting tools. The nursery teacher showed them how to make little stick men and animals out of the chestnuts, acorns and matches and even how to carve tiny baskets out of the conkers. Great care was taken with the knives as their little hands weren’t quite accustomed to dealing with sharp implements.

The Plaster

She had finished constructing a man with a big fat chestnut tummy who was able to stand on his feet made from acorn halves, and a dog standing on four matchstick legs. The children had been told to be quiet and listen to Tante Hanna’s instructions. Some kids had barely started crafting their chestnut figures while the girl got bored waiting for them to finish. So she started chatting to one of her friends. The teacher called her name and reminded her to be quiet and pay attention. Having nothing to pay attention to, she soon started whispering again to the girl sitting next to her, when, out of the blue, Tante Hanna appeared behind her and roughly grabbed her by the arm.


“I told you to be quiet and pay attention”, she said. “Now you will have to stand in the corner with a plaster covering your mouth!”


The girl started protesting and tears were beginning to roll down her cheeks. She promised to be good, but her pleading was ignored. The nursery teacher fetched a roll of black plaster and stuck a large piece over the girl’s mouth. Then she took her by the arm and led her to a corner of the room.


“Stay there and face the corner”, she told the the girl, “and don’t turn around!”


She then said to the other children: “Let this be a lesson to you all. If you are naughty, you will end up standing in the corner with a black plaster over your mouth for everyone to see!”


The girl started gagging and felt nauseated by the smell of the sticky plaster. To be singled out like this and made to face the wall with a her mouth being covered, the shame was nearly unbearable. She felt angry and helpless, but there was nothing she could do about the situation. And she wouldn’t tell her parents as they would probably agree with Tante Hanna’s actions and tell her off as well.


The year was 1960 – nursery and school teachers were permitted to use the cane and other forms of physical punishment, and corporal punishment wouldn’t be abolished for several years to come.

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About Angela S. Burke

Bi-lingual Editor, Writer, Translator for English and German. Have lived in the UK and Ireland since 1985 but am originally from Germany.
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