This past week has been the third time I’ve developed and taught a 5-day course for high schoolers. The last two times I taught it, I arranged the comic studies and comic book content chronologically, I guess because I wanted to make sure everything was in order (ha!). This time, I decided to add political cartoons (in hono[u]r, however dubious, of a recent election) and rearrange the material thematically, which turned out to be pretty great for me (since I get bored easily) and for the students (since timelines within the thematic clusters made more sense than a more temporally straightforward but less internally consistent “In the beginning… to the present day”). For each class, I have experimented with different guest speakers, field trips, films, documentaries, and YouTube clips. I’ll talk a bit more about the course content in a later post.
Today, I’d like to focus on how much I’ve learned from the students I’ve worked with over the years. They never cease to amaze me. Something we had to work through as a class yesterday was a student’s passing comment that “Stephen Harper is gay.” First, I took care to point out how using the word “gay” in that fashion was rude, inappropriate, and disrespectful, and that such a phrase was unacceptable in my classroom. [I did not take the opportunity to point out that the statement was extra-disrespectful to members of the queer community because of the comparison to li’l Stevie. The lack of jokes at this formative pedagogical moment must mean that I’m learning to be a Very Serious Instructor.] I then asked the class to come up with six alternative adjectives that would make the statement more accurate and appropriate.
“He’s smelly,” said one student.
“He’s stoooopid,” added another, helpfully.
“He sucks,” said a third.
“Alright, that’s not even a noun, that’s a verb,” I pointed out, “Now come on. Give me something better than that.”
“Um, you know, he’s inconsistent with his policies and stuff,” a fourth student muttered.
“Yeah, also he’s dishonest cuz he prerogied [sic] Parliament,” said a fifth.
“He’s amoral?” asked student the third.
“He’s egotistical cuz my mom said so, and cuz of all those pictures he has of himself,” said student the second.
“See, I knew you had it in you,” I declared, none too triumphantly, “People will take your critiques more seriously if you express yourself properly. Give yourselves a round of a applause!”
They clapped obediently and vigorously.
“He still smells, though,” reiterated student the first.
Learning and teaching are a little bit uphill both ways, but there are cupcakes of insight along the paths.
Please note: My recollection and account of these events is as accurate as possible under the circumstances associated with aging, not making a recording of the event, and having an inclination of the hyperbolic. Memory and storytelling are spotty, subjective things, so you have my apologies for any transcriptional errors, and my best wishes for a lovely day.