Matt Groening (and my pupils) inspired my comic strip
Colm Cuffe’s experience as a teacher led him to create Facebook hit ‘When’s it Hometime?’
Art, animation and cartooning have always been a passion of mine. I realised from a young age the importance of being creative, and I was always creating my own characters and telling my own stories. I was long-inspired by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s work, and grew up reading classic comic strips such as Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and The Far Side. As a teacher, I try to incorporate art in my classroom as much as possible, so as to engage my students and to encourage their creativity.
I have been a teacher for 10 years now, and over this time, I have found myself thoroughly entertained by the unintentionally funny things children say and do. The idea to draw these cartoons originated from the many conversations I’ve had with my teacher friends and colleagues, sharing the funny, unexpected, and occasionally ridiculous situations we encounter every day in the classroom. I knew these stories would make great material for a comic strip. The title itself came from a friend of mine, whose student constantly asked “when’s it hometime?” throughout the school day.
I began working on my comics as a hobby. Teachers have always been encouraged to be reflective in their work, and these comics became my own personal way of practicing reflection. In 2015, at the Vodafone Comedy Carnival in Galway, I got to meet Mike Reiss, the writer and producer of The Simpsons, after his own show. I chanced my arm and admitted that I had always wanted to go to a table read of the show. He kindly gave me his email, and I persisted by following up with a number of emails a few weeks later. Fast forward a year and I found myself on my way to Los Angeles to experience a table read in person.
At the reading, I got to meet Matt Groening, the genius behind the Simpson family, and had the opportunity to show him my comics. All the comic strips are black and white in format, drawn by hand using just a pencil, ruler, black pen, paper and a light box. I was amazed that he showed a genuine interest in both myself and my work, and he really took the time to read through each comic. He told me I had a “confident style”, and, more importantly, asked me if I had an online presence where I could share my work, which I didn’t. This, I now see, was the moment When’s it Hometime? was born. It was absolutely Matt’s words that encouraged me to publish my work online in the first place. The response and support I received from the beginning was overwhelming. So far, I’ve amassed more than 20,000 followers, and my work has been viewed over one million times.
I’m absolutely thrilled that what started out as just a hobby actually resonated with so many people – both teachers and non-teachers – around the world and at home in Ireland. I regularly get messages from people asking if they can translate my comics into their own languages. I think it really says something about the universal experience and understanding of the classroom, and the often-hilarious situations we as teachers, students or parents of young kids can all identify and relate with. I love creating these comics, and I’m delighted that so many people enjoy them, but I also hope that my comics illustrate, in a humorous way, the hard work, dedication and care that teachers around the world provide our students with every day.
A Teacher’s Life by Colm Cuffe is published by Gill Books, at €9.99