Slouching Toward Bedlam

At Play in the Fields of the Lord: Or, Play Us a Song, You’re the Piano Man

It was third period and Bedlam Christian High School guidance counselor Maxwell Prentiss-Hall and math teacher Jane VanderAsch were working on the crossword puzzle. Jane always felt a little guilty for not grading papers during her free period, but she found the race to complete the puzzle gave her mind a chance to reset itself in the brief span of time before the hungry students in AP Calculus tired her out again. As school counselor, Maxwell could take his free period whenever he wanted. He chose third because he loved crossword puzzles and Jane helped him out with the hard clues. They were making good time and had just gotten the solution to a six-letter word for “folk art floor covering” (ragrug) and were looking for a seven-letter word for “tasteless, dull, or flat” that starts with ins-, when Rex Kane, Bedlam’s PE teacher, athletic director, and football coach, slammed the door against the wall on his way into the room.

“The kids are bad enough.” Rex was so angry he was almost spitting the words out of his mouth. “But when the parents start taking the kids’ side—that makes me so mad I bet I have little bubbles coming out of my ears!”

Jane suppressed a grin. “I think you mean smoke coming out of your ears, not bubbles.”

Rex threw her an angry glare and went on. “Paul Sachar, one of the best kids on the football team, says he will not be playing in the game this Friday. You know why?”

He paused. Jane realized that Rex was waiting for a reply, so she shrugged her shoulders.

“Because he has a piano recital! His dad told me that they gave Paul a choice, and they are supporting his decision. Can you believe it?”

He paused again until it was clear that neither Maxwell nor Jane were going to sympathize with his outrage. At that point Maxwell asked, “Is it an important game or something?”

“Of course it’s an important game. All games are important. That’s why they’re called games!” Rex took a deep breath. “You know what really gets me is that his parents don’t seem to understand what an important part of Paul’s spiritual development football is. I mean think of David in the Bible. He was God’s warrior. You don’t ever hear of God raising up a piano player to lead his people, do you? That’s why I have always said that we should have been the Bedlam Warriors, not the Bedlam Berserkers! I am thinking of kicking that kid off the team until he gets his priorities straight!”

“You know, I do think I see bubbles coming out of your ears.” Maxwell winked at Jane. “Tiny bubbles in the wine; tiny bubbles make me feel fine.”

“I’m serious,” Rex retorted. “I’m angry.”

“We know you’re serious, Rex,” Jane said. “That’s what makes this so sad to me.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rex demanded.

“Well, let’s think about what’s actually bothering you. If you came in here complaining about a student not fulfilling a commitment he’d made to a team, I would be sympathetic. If you had talked about what it means to work as a team, a single body, I would have been sympathetic. But those weren’t your concerns. You were upset that Paul would consider the piano to be as important as football.”

“Of course I’m upset. I’m trying to raise up a generation of leaders, and football creates leaders. It’s a game of strategy, of strength, of stamina, of skill.”

“Piano requires those same things,” Maxwell said. “My wife teaches piano, and as an art form, it also requires strategy, strength, stamina, and skill.”

“Oh please!” Rex snorted, and now he did have a tiny bubble of snot slip out of his nose. He wiped it away with the back of his hand. “Strength and stamina?”

Maxwell smiled. “I will let my wife teach any of your football players to play a simple C-major scale. I bet after fifteen minutes, they’d all be moaning about how much their forearms hurt. Playing the piano is more physically demanding than you might think.”

As if swatting at a pesky fly, Jane waved away their conversation with the back of her hand. She snapped, “All of this is beside the point. Where I take umbrage, Rex, is with your blatant machismo that thinks any kind of real man would play football rather than piano. To quote you, ‘You don’t ever hear of God raising up a piano player.’ Don’t you even realize that King David was a musician? He played the harp, sang, and wrote poetry.”

“But . . . but . . . David was a warrior,” Rex stammered.

“One who never touched a football in his life!” Jane pushed her chair back from the table and started for the door. “I think I need some fresh air.” [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]


Jan Kaarsvlam, author of Slouching Toward Bedlam, is pleased to announce that he is jumping on the same bandwagon that Danielson and Marzano are on. The Kaarsvlam Framework is a list of 73,462 observable qualities that make a good teacher. With this exhaustive checklist, Christian school principals can observe their teachers and, with just a few checkmarks, clarify what the teacher is doing well and what he or she needs to work on. Consider these teaching skills not found in either Marzano or Danielson: 456—Displays excellent Vo-Ban management skills; 4,923—Removes centipede from classroom without causing a ruckus. Or, Jan’s favorite: 23,711.—Superior job preventing one student from defenestrating another.