The coronavirus lockdown saw some states and territories in Australia close schools.
Students would be home schooled using classes over the internet. Parents who were working from home due to social distancing suddenly became teachers as well. Remote learning turned dining room tables and kitchen benches into classrooms. Mums and Dads were trying explain quadratic equations* or why the feuding* Montague and Capulet families in Romeo and Juliet were at war with each other.
I’m a political cartoonist but a lot of my cartoons during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were about human behaviour. Observations on how we were coping and adjusting to our “new world”: living in quarantine, social distancing, some of us losing our jobs, doing Zoom meetings, home schooling and not being able to go out!
Even our pets at home noticed the change. We were around more, we didn’t go out and when we did we dragged the dog with us for a walk so we wouldn’t get arrested!
It wasn’t all bad. We got really good at doing TikToks and some of us got our highest scores ever playing Call of Duty on PlayStation.
So when the news came that state governments were going to relax restrictions and students would return to schools I thought I should draw a cartoon on the subject.
I decided that I would look at the topic, not from the students’ point of view, but from the point of view of others in the household. I could look at it from the parents’ side, the relief of not having to explain Pythagoras* anymore. Parents jumping for joy maybe?
But I like my cartoons to have a bit more of a twist than the obvious. There would be others in the house who would be even more relieved to see you guys get back on the school bus! But who, I hear you ask?!
I started drawing my cartoon with the view of a household’s dinner table covered in school project paper waste, glues, paints, calculators, textbooks. The cartoon continues as we look across from the mess to the open front door where a mother is standing, happily waving goodbye. Then I drew the front window, through which we can see her three children in uniform with their school bags heading out the front gate on their way to school.
Mark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-sized image
Okay, so at this point I’ve drawn a nice picture of kids heading back to school but what’s so funny about that? I haven’t added the punchline, that being the furry feline* creature who before Covid ruled the home and would lie peacefully on the couch all day in peace and quiet. The family cat. Its world ruined by the stay-at-home policy.
So in the cartoon you will notice I have drawn discreetly* in the foreground the family marmalade* moggy*. It’s doing cartwheels. Excited at the prospect that the home will be his to rule again!
A lot of my cartoons are based on life experiences. While writing this piece my 16-year-old daughter in Year 10 came into my home office and said that she needed help with her history essay on World War I. She needed it done before her maths class on Zoom started. So I had to stop writing this and go and help her. We don’t work well together, we argue, she wants my help but won’t accept my ideas and then her computer glitches* and we lost all the work we’d done and had to start again. Home schooling can’t end soon enough.
About that cat in my cartoon. It’s me!
- quadratic equations: a type of maths problem
- feuding: long-running argument
- Pythagoras: a maths equation to work out the length of sides of a triangle, discovered by Greek mathematician Pythagoras
- feline: to do with cats
- discreetly: so it’s hard to notice, opposite of boldly
- marmalade: the orange colour of marmalade
- moggy: cat
- glitches: little errors, mishaps or periods of not working properly
- What is the cartoonist’s name?
- Why have the students been learning at home?
- What does the little pig say?
- Describe what the cat is doing. Why do you think it’s behaving like that?
- List four things on the floor that shouldn’t be there.
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What Happens Next?
Imagine that this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the start of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking
‘To be a great cartoonist, being able to draw is only one of the skills that you need.’ Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job. Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.
Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design
Stretch your sentence
Find a ‘who’ in the cartoon. A person or animal.
Write it down.
Add 3 adjectives to describe them better.
Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?
Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.
Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Describe some emotions you and adults in your house are feeling about a return to regular school if you’ve been learning from home.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.