Like all teachers, Nicole Jobin spends her days growing young minds of today to make for a better tomorrow. Unlike most teachers, she does it in a way special to us all: through comic books. Nicole is the creator and lifeblood behind Comics in the Classroom, a unique and wonderful method of teaching children how to read, comprehend, and analyze the lessons that can be found in our favorite stories.
Listen to the complete interview with Nicole Jobin of Comics in the Classroom.
Below is an edited version of the interview.
Comic Burst: Tell us about the idea behind Comics in the Classroom and what made it special
Nicole Jobin: It started a while ago when I was an English teacher in Las Vegas where I was the only English-speaking person in the classroom. One of the challenges the children had at the time was understanding the text, constantly finding reasons as to why it was difficult to understand. So, there was a publisher at the time that was releasing books that were accompanying the text with pictures to give added clarity. We put these to use on a regular basis and were seeing noticeable improvement in comprehension, reading, and vocabulary. I bought some graphic novels that I thought would be helpful and put them on my shelf in the classroom for the students to use for choice reading. That's where the idea sort of started evolving for me.
I then moved to Florida and was teaching 6th grade and the opportunity arose for me to implement this idea again. We had testing coming up and I really wanted a way to keep the kids engaged while preparing them at the same time. So I suggested using comic books to the principal. We ended up going with Chris Claremont's X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. As most comic book fans know, there is a certain bad word in that book, which I had to white out of every single book!
We would examine a couple pages at a time, talking about what was happening, engaging a lot about their facial expressions and the allegories that comics tend to have. We discussed how the story was a take on the Civil Rights movement and what is considered right and wrong. The kids really engaged with a lot of thought about race and how we see one another. The whole process really made the kids get involved and engage with what we were discussing. It was just so amazing to see. Our library even saw a spike in kids borrowing graphic novels. I've even had younger siblings of those kids come to class looking to get the same lesson.
It really made an impression on them. That's how it all really started and I carry this idea with me to this day. My husband Brian has been amazing about getting the word out and the reaction has been really positive!
CB: Where does Comics in the Classroom go from here?
NJ: Most of it really hinges on getting comic books into the hands of educators. As most folks know, teachers often buy a lot of the supplies they use in their classrooms and are tragically underpaid. Comics can really start adding up, especially when a graphic novel runs about $20 on average. As far as a school budget goes, there really isn’t a lot of extra room for things like this unfortunately. A lot of comic shops will even offer a discount to educators when it comes to buying books like this for the classroom, or even donate them. What I really would like to do is get the comic books that educators wish to use in their hands, and I don’t mean just one. I mean however many they would need for the class. I'd also like to have a place where educators can share the lesson plans they use with the comic books. That way other teachers interested in implementing comic books into their lesson plans have a place to start and resource information.
CB: Do you have specific comics you would recommend to teacher who wishes to get started in their own classrooms?
NJ: Well, if you are gearing more towards the middle school age group, I would recommend comics like Bone, which is absolutely perfect for that age group. Another one I'm a big fan of, especially the newest series, is Ms. Marvel. The new series features a Pakistani woman as Ms. Marvel which is wonderful for teaching diversity and equality. But all of the Ms. Marvel series in general are wonderful too. I would recommend books like X-Men. Especially if the class is teaching about civil rights, race tolerance, and things of that nature. Another really interesting story that I want to sink my teeth into is Superman: Red Son. A ‘what if?’ story about Superman’s space capsule crashing in Russia instead of the U.S. and the differences that would of arose for him and the world if he had. All of these are wonderful tools for engaging classrooms.
CB: Where do we go to find out more?
NJ: You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Folks can come and see all the resources and links we've gathered of all the other people and universities who are also pursuing the comic book as a teaching tool. If anyone wants to speak to me directly about Comics in the Classroom they can find us on:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ComicsInTheClassroomFL/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/CITClassroom
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/citclassroom
I do want to point out that another amazing source that I often reference is https://popcultureclassroom.org. I have modeled a lot of what I have done on their work. There are tons of different plans, lessons and even an option to sign up and take classes on the website itself on using comics and pop culture as teaching tools.