Thousands of years before stories were written down, they were drawn. The walls in the caves of Lascaux tell the story of great hunts without a single word, the images tell the tale. Unable to read the Scriptures in Latin, or at all, churches installed tapestries or stained glass so the illiterate could read and learn.
Current Publishing cartoonist Tim Campbell seeks to do likewise to help readers understand how COVID-19 has affected middle school students by animating their reflections in a long-form cartoon.
“Months ago, there was a post I saw on Facebook,” Campbell said. “It was a story about a child, a student, crying to his mother about the toll this school year took on him. His mother encouraged him, like the health care workers and first responders, (that) the boy, too, was a hero in a way. It was inspiring.
“These kids who are going through all of this and what they are trying to do with e-learning hasn’t been done before, and they aren’t getting the recognition that they probably deserve.”
Campbell’s idea was to show the students’ perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted their school year. He wasn’t quite sure how to go about it, so he approached Fishers Junior High music teacher Cindy Baney, who once taught his own children in school, for help. She brought the idea to her principal, Crystal Thorpe, and the idea blossomed.
The result was one piece of paper divided into four quadrants, each one asking the student a question:
- What do you wish people knew about school during COVID-19?
- What is the hardest thing for you to deal with right now?
- Share a personal story about the good, bad or ugly side of learning during the pandemic.
- Share an observation or funny story about school during the pandemic?
The papers were distributed in March.
“We wanted it to still be a little bit open-ended because those prompts are going to inspire the kids to pull something from their own experience,” Baney said.
“The next thing I know, I’ve got a couple hundred kids sending me responses to four questions,” Campbell said.
The responses covered a range of emotions. Some stories were funny, like the student who told of losing a fight to his cat (the feline sucker-punched him in the face with his claws) during a show-and-tell on Zoom. Some stories were odd, like the student who found a live lobster wandering in front of the school. Some were eye-opening and sad, such as too many children dealing with too much stress.
“I think the beauty of this (project) is that it brings it down to the student level. What are the students thinking?” Thorpe said. “These (students) are my babies. Some of the responses made me happy, some made me laugh out loud, some made me sad (and) some made me reflect on what we needed to do better as a staff to better support our kids.”
The end result, available at youarecurrent.com, is a short series of long-form cartoons incorporating responses from students into Campbell’s artistic renderings.