A few colleagues and I have begun creating cartoon characters to support and brand our composition program (they were adjuncts, now full-time employees–and two more coming on board soon). We started with SuperComposition Person (SCP) and ninja sidekick editor, Ed.–no name, just Ed. which is short for editor. Not sure Ed. ever speaks, but I really like him–takes down comma errors with grace, precision, and lighting speed. SCP speaks–in fact, SCP is a writing professor by day, hero of composition all other times.
It all began when we decided we needed some unusual thing to do in a training–so we asked teachers to name a super power they’d like to have in the writing classroom. That was a fun discussion. The next day, a colleague and I cooked up the guts of SCP and Ed.; the week after, another colleague who happened to be an artist, created this first iteration (second image below). During a portfolio reading, we kicked it up a notch and got enthusiastic approval from colleagues in biology and history.
Eventually we added in a few more characters as time and talent allowed, pulling from resources as diverse as small children and parents related to this blogster, students, more teachers, friends, faculty, staff, local artists, high school students.
For our big celebration, AUM Writes!, on Oct. 20 this year, The National Day on Writing, we created buttons with some of the characters and got the help of our senior graphic artist on campus to create a t-shirt that we ran out of in record time. Next year, we hope to have much more art work completed and put a Pantheon of Composition Heroes on a t-shirt to celebrate who we are and what we write (first image below).
Meanwhile back at the ranch, I’m working on a short film to introduce more characters to our community–I might be able to get that handled in the next week or so. We want more artists involved because we can’t do all the drawing; we want more writers working on the back stories of heroes and villains already created; we want visionaries who will help us turn this into a graphic novel. So we need to talk about it and ask for involvement.
But until all that happens, I plunge forward in the very best super hero-like fashion I can to work on projects I believe are important. I have been inspired by this work with colleagues and students and family and friends to not let go of it, to not let it rest too long… Writing here makes me accountable for commitment, I think. If I say it here, can it get out of doing it? Nope.
AND I have also begun giving writing advice to anyone I think needs it, swooping in during meetings and trainings when colleagues from across the disciplines display frustration over why students can’t write: “TA-DA…’tis I, your writing colleague come to save the day.” Normally, I don’t like to talk in public much in this way, but lately, no problem. I’m all about broadcasting open educational resources and how one can employ such to teach and help students learn. At the very least, I explain with much patience and sincere love, you should visit Writing Spaces to see what’s there that might help you and your students talk about writing together as you sort through their experience, your expectations, desired outcomes, and as you both craft a writing experience that could end up doing several things: 1) help you assess student learning; 2) help students learn more about writing; 3) give students more experience writing with expert guidance. There it is. Use it.
I felt very heroic yesterday when I was able to tell sociology, political science, and theater professors: “Here, check this out. It’s for you and your students. It already belongs to you.”
Ninja, right? Sure felt like it.
Isn’t this spectacular? “Fighting writing crime… one sentence at a time” was a collaborative effort between myself and a colleague–the kind of seamless joy that happens when one of you says ___ and the next one says ____, and it becomes something that delights everyone and makes work not work at all.
When we first saw this art, of course it was a pencil sketch, but it was very exciting for all of us–then our artist did THIS. We’d done something tangible, visual, creative, and fun. To protect the guilty/innocent, I refrain from mentioning names here in this blog, besides my own, but there were many, many people who worked on this project because no one could do this (or writing program administration) alone (and have a day job–we all teach full-time and do everything else on top of that). When I manage to write this into article form for some academic journal, so I can keep doing what I do, then I’ll list the minors, adults, and seniors who made this possible.
For now, and I’m okay with this, I’m brainstorming what’s possible in this live space, hoping the writing here that feels both private and public will help me articulate how WPAs should be envisioning writing programs as the best entrepreneurial enterprises, publicizing their work across K-12, sponsoring workshops on writing in the community, branding their programs; we need successful, and I mean wildly successful, models to look at and draw from, because we are creating products that matter more than any other: students who can think and can be productive citizens of the world. And if we need cartoon characters to inspire and/or capture them and keep them enthralled, or even in thrall, then that’s my 5-year mission.
Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.