The Cleansing of the Classroom


After a leave from teaching this fall, I returned to work, taking up my customary position as the feared dictator of a grade-five classroom. The physical space is tight this year. Twenty-eight students are crammed so close together…when I have an EA helping, she doesn’t even have a place to sit. Yes, my classroom “needs to be at least three times as big.” So, discipline is a must.


The first day I was so busy laying down the law and making threats, that I didn’t have time to teach. For as Machiavelli wisely states, “it’s better to be feared than loved.” But on the second day, it was time to get busy.


“Silent reading time!” I barked. “And I mean silent!”


“Aww! Do we have to?” echoed a chorus of shrill voices akin to being stoned to death with popcorn.




“Mr. Millette!” came a challenging voice from the back, “I think I need glasses?”




“Because I can’t see any muscles on you!”


Very feared.


That first silent reading session lasted not even five minutes. There was a flood of restlessness. When a mean teacher glance was given, a student would quickly look down at the pages before him for a few seconds. If that student was lucky, his books would even be the right-side up.


What pages, exactly? Graphic novels, of course. Graphic novels everywhere. Glorified cartoons. Pictures with a few meaningless words tacked on, discussing potty humour, female underwear, and what causes one to throw up.


I looked over at the EA. An older lady from older times. She was seething.


“We have a problem,” I stated. Captain Obvious.


“Yes we do,” she agreed, smoke rising from her ears.


“The attention span of a goldfish,” I proclaimed.


Finally, she just said it: “What is your position on graphic novels?”


It was not a question but a challenge.


“They make good fire starter,” I admitted.


A hint of a smile, just a hint, rose from the upper corner of her lip.


I must cleanse the classroom,” I stated boldly.


And I did. By that I mean I got the heck out of the way of the EA.


She flew in with righteous rage and determination! Tables flew over! Books went flying! At one point a cord was created with shoelaces and sticky tack, and pages were whipped with relentless fury.


“Get out!” she screamed. “You have made this place a den of stupidity!”

It was the cleansing of the classroom. I think it went something like this, anyway.


Four Weeks Later


“Time for reading.”


Quickly a legion of novels are open on desks. The pages are right-side up. Some are Little House on the Prairie. Others Number the Stars. And one girl, bless her heart, is reading Disconnected: The Broken Path (my new favourite student!). Most students read silently. A few ask permission to read to each other in the hallway. It is peaceful. It is right. All is well.


And the EA stands alongside. A hint of a smile on her stern face.


Probably because I am a feared leader.



Need novel ideas? Check out my Adventures of a Misfit series!


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My Rocky Mountain Challenge


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