As I enter my 10th year of teaching English at the high school level, I have been very fortunate, so far, to have had colleagues and administration that support my use of comics/graphic novels in the classroom; growing up, I was a comic book kid, and there was no way I wasn’t going to bring my love of comics into the classroom.
Like many educators, I used Spiegelman’s Maus as an entry point into teaching graphic novels; Maus, as many of you know was the first comic to win a Pulitzer, adding a bit of credibility to the medium. As my students explored Spiegelman’s pages and became invested in the work, I quickly began to explore other titles. I began using more graphic novels in the classroom, and to make a long story short, I became better at using them, and my work became featured on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune’s publication led to me being contacted by Candlewick Publishing; they wanted to know if I’d be interested in presenting at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention with critically-acclaimed artist/graphic novelist Gareth Hinds. Uh, yes, please! A no-brainer, right? Gareth has adapted and drawn some amazing classical works including Beowulf, Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, The Odyssey, and King Lear. So, Gareth, my colleague Ronell Whitaker and I developed a presentation about using graphic novels to teach characterization and inference in the high school classroom, primarily focusing on Beowulf and Romeo & Juliet.
As of right now, our sold-out world tour is taking a break after three cities, so I decided to take some of the ideas from our presentation, along with some new thoughts and inquiries and pick Gareth’s brain for my blog about using comics in the classroom. He graciously accepted my invitation to bug him, and what follows is that interview mixed with some of my own commentary and reaction.
I hope you enjoy the thoughtful responses from Gareth Hinds, and as always, if you have any questions about what is happening here or what I’ve done in my classroom, or you need some classroom suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact me.