Keegan Laycock was in one of my first seventh grade classes back in the mid to late nineties at North Miami High School in Indiana. When I was teaching back then, I mostly gave assignments. I assigned stories and students answered the questions at the end. I went over grammar rules and students worked exercises. We even had this book where the students faced a grammar question, worked it on their own paper, and then they turned the page to see if they got it right. I gave the students credit for doing the work, and I remember not knowing the answers to quite a bit of the questions. Did anyone else ever work out of a workbook like that? Each page looked like a big chart with different shades of white and gray. Boring!!!
As bad as a teacher as I remember being, Keegan’s father once sort of suggested that possibly one of the reasons Keegan would want to be an English teacher was related to a not awful experience in my class. This I didn’t think possible. I guess if I did anything right, I was at least nice to people.
It had been at least eight years or so since I’d seen Keegan when he sent me a note on Facebook, and one of the first things he wrote to me about was that he remembered a comment I’d left on one of his essays: “Funny.” I wrote it next to some clever phrase he’d applied to the NHL penalty box. (can’t remember what he called it) I think even though I didn’t know what I was doing, I somehow knew to respond to people and not texts. I wrote little personal comments more than I was someone who would write “-5 sentence fragment.”
Thinking back to my own high school days, I remember my sophomore or junior year that Ms. Stone of Winamac High wrote, “Not your best effort.” It’s a comment I think was excellent for who I was and the amount of work I’d put into the assignment. I remember that instance being one of the first times I realized that when I turned in work there was somebody on the other end of the words actually reading the sentences. I’m not saying that my other teachers didn’t read my work; it was just the first time I’d considered that people were actually looking at the assignments. This revelation is probably akin to the shock sometimes students show when they see their teachers out at a grocery store or, heaven forbid, out to eat. If you’re a teacher reading this, do you let the students see the human side of you?
So Keegan is tackling the job of doing some illustrations related to my novel. What I’ve especially enjoyed about this is I convinced him that it would be fun for me (and I hope some of you) to watch the drawings come to life. As someone with a regimented writing process, it’s interesting for me to watch his drawing process. I asked him what he thought about drawing one scene with the boys paying their respects to–among other people–Cyndi Lauper. Rather than draw them all at once, he began by sketching them one at a time to get a feel for who they are. He’s just doing a little work, posting what he’s got, and then doing some more drafting.
Keegan and I don’t really know what we are going to do with these, if anything, but he’s enjoying the drawing, and I’m watching the characters take on a life of their own independent of the text of Love on the Big Screen.