Samuel Zager is Clarke’s new high school English teacher. The majority of his classes are English II but he also teaches two electives for juniors and seniors. This year students can chose to take a semester of these electives, comic books/graphic novels and sports literature.
Sports literature was an offered elective before this year but Zager was the one who was able to bring in the comic book/graphic novels class.
“They asked me if I could teach any elective, what would I want to teach. I told them I’d always wanted to teach a class like that [graphic novels] so they let me make that a brand new class this year,” said Zager.
The sports literature class is currently reading a novel called Undefeated which has themes of racism towards Native Americans before football became such a world wide sport.
“Opening day for me, I mean I’ve got study guides that the kids can work on in class for a little bit but then we basically open the floor. It’s a full class discussion and we talk about hot topics,” said Zager. “Lately we’ve been trying to talk about racism in sports in the 1930′s compared to now. Where are we at, how far have we come, things like that.”
As American’s we are overloaded with sports. The number one nationally watched program is the NFL. Kids hear sports commentators all the time but also how pop culture and current events show up in the sports world. Students in the sports literature class are able to bring a lot of what’s happening in the world together with sports and be able to better understand and relate to it in that way.
“A majority of the time they’re watching this at home anyway or they’re involved in a sport in some capacity,” said Zager. “On social media there’s always some sports star who’s promoting something or saying something so it’s always right in front of their faces. So having a class like that gives them a good basis of where things came from and how sports have evolved into having a voice in the real world on real world issues.”
Zager himself is a huge sports fan, always trying to pick up on things and hear things on Sports Center. His favorite sports are football and basketball. He also knows that sports literature can get students to see that being involved in sports isn’t just for the athletes. Sports Center for example has the behind the scenes people who deal with technology of editing and switching to commercials, there are writer and researchers.
“Being able to use that and put it into a type of curriculum based on English gives them an extra thing with more wide interests than just giving them old books which I’d have a heck of a time trying to get them to read,” said Zager.
Graphic Novels/Comic Books
“I am a huge comic book nerd, especially when it comes to Batman,” said Zager. “I always thought how cool it would be if I could incorporate Batman and comics in general into the classroom.”
Zager has noticed a lot of similarities between social media and comic books as they are both forms of communication using photos with short form dialog or information. With the students being so interested in social media bringing in a class that has roughly the same format for students to read made a lot of sense.
“Even though you’re reading comic books there’s still rhetoric, there are still puns, there is still satire, there’s still humor. And they visually get to see it happen in front of them,” said Zager. “So for me personally, with such a wide variety of comics now that hit on so many different interests, it would be the one way that I could get kids interested in finding something that they like and that they want to read but I’m still shoving English at them.”
Zager draws comparisons between comic book series and the themes that are in them such as aspects from Shakespeare plays and classic novels. He has found a way to teach those classic themes as they are referenced in current graphic novels and even the Marvel film franchise. This helps teach the students the same things all high schoolers learn but with a very modern twist that captures their attention.
Getting the students talking is Zagers big priority in class. Just as he tied current events into his sports lit class he is able to bring current events and pop culture in this class.
“I love getting my kids to talk in class. If I can get them to talk out loud for a whole hour class about real world issues that they got just from reading a few pages in a comic book then I’m doing something,” said Zager.