Slouching Toward Bedlam

She Reads to Conquer Or The Books U Give

Christine Lopez stood outside the biology room, staring at Sam Toomer’s classroom door. It was Friday, the students had left, and after the weekend was over Monday would mark the start of book week. Sam’s door had on it the same bright green piece of paper she had hung on everyone’s door. The same piece of paper she described in the memo she circulated that morning during faculty devotions. The instructions were simple. On one side of the paper it said, “My favorite book is ________.” The faculty member would then fill in their favorite book of all time. On the other side of the green paper it said, “The book that I am currently reading is ________.” The faculty member could choose to fill in the book they were reading at that time. Christina figured that this would give faculty the choice of which side to answer. And after all, even if someone isn’t reading right now, everyone had a favorite book, right?

Sam had apparently chosen the second option, but in the blank Sam had written in his distinctive left-handed scrawl, “Nothing. I haven’t read a book in ten years.”

Christine just stood there with her mouth open. She thought about the other doors she had looked at. Gord Winkle, the shop teacher, had written in two titles: German Birdhouse Clocks You Can Make in Your Basement and 101 More Foods You Can Deep Fry. Jane VanderAsch, the math teacher, was confident enough to admit that she was reading Cryptography for Dummies. Choir teacher Carrie Wellema was reading a biography of Wagner called Hold Your Winged Horses. Even Ed McGonigal had filled out the one Christine had hung on the door to the janitor’s office. Ed’s favorite book was Piping down the Braes and Lochs though Christine had to admit she had no idea what that might be about. Principal VanderHaar was reading Leadership Lessons from the Marvel Universe, which Christine was sure must represent some kind of practical joke, since VanderHaar surely couldn’t tell the Black Panther from the Green Goblin. The point is, every one of them had supported her initiative, except for Sam Toomer. And he had left. So what was she going to do now?


In retrospect, she should have seen this coming. Sam had been the faculty member leading the charge to rename the library, insisting all documents and signage refer to it henceforth as the media center. Sam had pushed the one-to-one program, arguing that if students had a device, they wouldn’t need to lug around heavy textbooks. And Sam had been the teacher to propose that for one week in April the school should adopt a project-based learning model in every subject, every classroom—and no books were to be allowed.

Leaning against the wall outside Sam’s classroom, Christine sighed heavily.

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Jan Karsvlaam recently left his fifth-grade teaching position at Rainy Meadow Christian School near Vancouver, British Columbia, following an unfortunate misunderstanding after his five-month social studies unit based on the book Beef: Using Live Animals to Protest Corporate Farms. He is happy to report that fifteen of the seventeen cows have been accounted for, his students are responding well to counseling, and most of the damage to city hall was merely cosmetic. Jan is looking for a teaching position pretty much anywhere.