I want you to know that I did not publish this comic strip lightly. I’m actually a nervous wreck putting it out there. I know it’s disturbing, violent, and maybe even shocking. It’s meant to be.
Mr. F first came into my conscious about seventeen years ago — soon after I started teaching. Even though I only started (semi) regularly publishing him within the last few years, his supporting cast, his antics, and his future were always in my mind.
He had quite a bright future, too. I planned to eventually have him capture the heart of Miss Kris. After that, I would have them get married and start a family. Mr. F’s cast would grow to include their children. Mr. F would then be depicted not only as a teacher, but also as a boyfriend, a husband, and ultimately a father.
I’ve always intended the Mr. F comic to be fun-loving. I never wanted the strip to be too critical, too political, or too heavy. I wanted the jokes typically aimed at Mr. F himself, never too much at the students. I meant for the reader to read it, chuckle, and then move on.
I meant for this strip to last decades.
But I’m tired.
Not tired of the strip — I’m tired of our children being shot to death in schools. I’m tired of America throwing up its hands and saying, “Well, it is what it is.” I’m tired of thinking, “It could never happen at my school” — as though that’s some sort of justifiable rationalization.
I want all the murdered children to know I care. I want those children to know that my heart cries for them, that thinking about them keeps me up at night, and that I can’t any longer just hope their faces fade out of my memory.
My first step is to sacrifice something very important to me — Mr. F. He’s a poor substitute for an actual living child, obviously, but I want those who feel shocked by Mr. F’s senseless death to know that his demise is NOTHING compared to each and every one of the children we’ve allowed to be killed in what should be the safest spaces in our country. The future ripped away from him is fictional. The future those children will never get to experience is real. Too real.
Mr. F is clearly based on me. I’m a teacher. For many of you, when you look at him, you see me. When you look at the above picture, I want you to imagine that it is actually me. I want you to imagine that I’ve been killed by an assault weapon at my school. I want you to imagine your child, riddled with bullets, bleeding out on the floor, or your grandchild, or your nephew or niece. I want you to imagine that, and I want you to try to rationalize why you allowed it. It’s different when it’s other people’s kids … but it shouldn’t be.
To all the murdered children … I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Starting with this strip, I won’t just offer my thoughts. It’s time to also offer action.
As you may know, I’m teaching a creative writing course this semester and I’m enjoying it more than I ever expected. My students are amazing–a dream come true. They are creative, have excellent attitudes, and don’t hesitate to get right to work on their writing. I can’t imagine a better group to initiate this new chapter of my career.
Today we started on our first “official” genre–Realistic Fiction. We’ve done a few warm-up activities, but this is the first story we plan to read to each other. When it comes to reading and writing, I believe in sitting down and doing it with the students. Luckily, I happen to love both of those things.
So, as my students started their first short story, I started one as well. I fully intend to partake in each genre, to read my work to them just as they must read their work aloud to the group, and to basically experience the victories and frustrations as an active participant, not just an objective observer.
I’ve been writing regularly for a long, long time now, and virtually all of it has been by myself–mostly in a basement of some sort or another with the lights off and music playing.
Today I wrote in a classroom full of teenagers. Some of them were sketching characters, some of them were developing plot in their journals, some were typing away. I’ve always listened to music as I write, so I allow them to listen with their earbuds as well. I would intermittently look up to see my students lost in their own creative endeavor. I heard the tap-tap-tap of their keyboards. I saw the words appearing on their screens, the characters taking shape in their journals, or the pencil gliding across their notebook paper. I took all of this in and it brought me great happiness.
At the end of class I mentioned to them how fun it is to write with others. I explained that writing can be such an isolated, lonely activity–to sit in a room and write with others … it felt so … nice! (Excellent writing there, huh?)
Guiding these young people though the first steps of what I hope will be a lifelong writing journey has not only invigorated me as a teacher, but it’s also already provided a sense of community in regards to writing that I didn’t even realize I craved.
Do you love to read the books that movies are based upon before those movies come out? Check out this activity I had for my students today. In order to get excited to read the source material, I had them watch the correlating trailers for upcoming films. I’m happy to say they were very enthusiastic for several of the books (and movies)! My primary goal as an educator is to help people want to read. Take a look below and let me know which book you would most like to read, and also which movie looks the best to you.
(Last year’s movie trailers and books can be found HERE.)
(Did you enjoy this post? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)
I’m so excited because tomorrow begins a new chapter in my teaching career. Tomorrow marks the first day I will teach a creative writing class. It’s hard to believe that I’ve taught for sixteen years without ever once instructing a creative writing course, but it’s true.
I’m particularly excited because I can share with the students quite a bit of real world application when it comes to creative writing. We can explore so many traditional and nontraditional publishing avenues, contacting agents, setting up readings, developing a website, partaking in social media–all of those things that are necessary to reach an audience. After all, writing the story is just the first step.
I am ecstatic to help these students find their voices, experiment with different genres, hone their craft, build their confidence, and learn about the business side as well. I’ll share with them my victories, but also my blunders. I think both will provide ample learning opportunity.
However, my number one priority when I meet them tomorrow for the first time? Ask them what they want to learn. Their requests will drive the course.
Wish us luck!