It’s Wednesday afternoon, quarter-past three, and I’m sitting here in my classroom. School ended almost an hour ago, but in my room are about a dozen students who gather weekly for the Comic Book Club. I’m here as the club’s faculty sponsor, but aside from a few conversations every now and then about the latest superhero movie news, each Wednesday I get a little grading and planning done as they hold their club meeting.
I was first asked to sponsor this club two years ago. One of my ninth-graders asked me to sponsor this new club that he and his friend were starting. They had the required number of student signatures, and all they needed now was a faculty sponsor. Though I didn’t need another club to add to my list, I like superheroes and I liked this student, so I said yes. Ironically, that student isn’t in the club anymore, but his efforts to bring together comic book fans have survived his temporary interest.
The current students in the club—who are really terrific kids, by the way—usually watch a superhero film or cartoon. During their first meeting of the year, the group went around and shared who their favorite superhero was and why. During another meeting, they took turns making a “pitch” for a new superhero movie and storyline (they had some good ideas!). But perhaps the most animated (and well-attended) meetings I’ve seen are the ones where they conduct formal debate on all things superhero. I’ve listened to passionate arguments about why Batman is better than Superman, why Marvel superheroes are better than their D. C. counterparts, why invisibility is a better super power than flying. Their arguments are intense and heated, with students supporting their claims with all sorts of specific references to the comics.
Right now, several of the boys are seated at the back table playing some a superhero-related card game. From what I’ve gathered in my eavesdropping, it seems similar to a Pokemon game, though it also sounds like they’re making some of the rules up as they go along. Meanwhile, two kids are watching The Flashpoint Paradox movie, which is playing in the front of the room, while two other kids are reading some web comics using the computers in the back of the room. Laughter erupts from the boys playing cards, while the movie’s sound effects blast through the ceiling speakers. I’m having a hard time concentrating on anything with all the noise, but the kids are otherwise so generally well-behaved that it’s hard to be annoyed.
I haven’t had any of these students in any of my classes, and I wonder sometimes who they might be outside my classroom. Here, every Wednesday, they are passionate and knowledgeable, curious and very kind to one another (even as they tease one another during their debates). The club president, a junior, is one of the most polite and well-mannered students I’ve come across, and he never forgets to thank me at the end of each club meeting.
Sometimes I wonder why they bother with the club; it seems to me that most of what they do every Wednesday they could easily do at someone’s house after school. And maybe many years ago, that’s what this club would be—a get-together of friends in someone’s basement.
I’m not sure that those casual times and spaces after school at someone’s house exist anymore. These kids grew up in the days of organized activity; their days are scheduled and overscheduled, with little downtime for just “hanging out.” So in the end, maybe that’s what I do as the faculty sponsor—I’ve given them the “basement” where they can gather, the place after school where they can hang out and talk about the things they love. They need the space, and I guess my room is as good as any.
This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.