As I begin another semester of this crazy ride I call teaching, I am yet one step closer to being more comfortable with using comics in the classroom. I learned a lot last semester from my kids, and I will learn a ton more this semester, and these lessons will continue to shape who I am as an educator. But through these lessons, I know that there is one thing that I’ve been doing that has helped tremendously in shaping my success, and this “one thing” was brought to my attention by fellow comic book teacher Mr. Nisavic (@teaching_humans).
He said, “You live it.”
He was speaking about the large stack of comics on my desk and my propensity to discuss said comics with anyone who would listen. While his comment was a simple observation that I practiced what I preached in my comics class, I’ve noticed, through educating other teachers on using comics in the classroom, the value of “living” the comics’ culture.
Let me skip to a moment that I had just a couple of days ago: a student, toward the end of class (my comics class), came up to me to discuss Batman, DC, Spiderman, and various other comic book topics. I was so excited to find a similar passion in this student, that we had a spirited discussion, and in a minute or two, the student became overwhelmed with emotion. When I inquired what was wrong, he said, “I just never get to talk about this stuff with anyone.” We continued our conversation until the bell, and the student left for the day knowing that now, he had found someone to talk to about “this stuff.”
It was a powerful moment. For me, it was one of those moments that makes me grateful to be in the educational district that I am. I may not be the only teacher in the building that is an avid comic reader, and I may not even be the one with the most comic book knowledge, But, I am the only educator who teaches a class dedicated to the medium in my building, and one of the few who gets the opportunity to teach such a class in the nation, so I better be well versed and passionate about the medium.
So, here is my suggestion: if you are going to teach it, live it.
If you are a teacher that wants to use graphic novels/comics in the classroom, then you should try your best to immerse yourself in that culture and read as many comics as you possibly can. After some brainstorming, I’ve come up with five reasons to urge you to live what you teach. But before I get to the five, I want to say that my main audience here is English teachers. If you teach science, math, health, etc., and are utilizing graphic novels to help students visualize and tackle abstract concepts, then your methods of reaching your students will be somewhat less aligned with mine. But for those English and Social Studies teachers who are trying to get to the core of the human experience in a way that the children of today’s society can relate to, you can and should “live it.” There are so many excellent resources out there for you!
Without further delay, here are five reasons to inspire you to live what you teach:
- Be Prepared for student Recommendations:
Read all types of comics, even those you aren’t necessarily drawn to. All types of students, from all different types of backgrounds, are going to ask YOU for more titles to read. Make sure that you’ve done your homework and are familiar with comics in many forms, genres, and publishing houses. I find myself reading titles that I never have read because I know that I will have students requesting different types of books.
- Discuss what you Read:
Like anything, the more you dive into the medium, the more you learn about it. Don’t just read new titles. find people to have meaningful conversations with about using them for educational purposes. I’m living proof that this works. While I read comics as a kid, I really only got serious about using them in the classroom about 3-4 years ago. Since then, I’ve been reading about, talking about, and learning about all different types of comics. And while I still feel that I’ve just begun to scratch the surface, I can hold my own in most comic conversations.
- Bring these Discussions to your Classroom:
Kids will want to talk to you about comics. And if you follow the suggestion of number two, learning about comics will allow you to have meaningful conversations with your students. As many more schools move to a more “Whole Child” approach to learning, being able to build relationships through mutual interests is an amazing thing.
- Get in while the Getting’s good!:
The art form is at the top of its game right now. You will NEVER have to look far for an amazing adventure or thought-provoking story again. I’ve never been a more engaged reader than I am right now thanks to the current state of the comics’ medium. For the most part, every publisher is firing on all cylinders, and talented writers, creators, and artists are ubiquitously taking over the form, giving readers an endless array of options to choose from.
- Be Ahead of the Educational Curve:
No one else in your building is doing this…probably. And if they are, good for the both of you! This is truth. If you find that this is your niche, you will be one of the first to deliver this amazing type of learning to your kids. If there are other like- minded educators near you, combine forces! Try cool stuff, share new ideas, and present at conventions; I’d love to present with you!
I hope this list helps and encourages you to get out there and read more comics. Please reach out to me for starting titles and ideas. I’m here to help.
This post also means that Ronell (www.thecomicbookteacher.com) and I are 3 for 3 in our New Year’s resolution to alternately blog each week. It’s early, but it’s a good start! Contact us with ideas and thoughts as we move forward. What do you want us to write about?
Happy reading, everyone!