Who’s Your Hugh?

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This fall, Marvel movie fans got a fun update on the film Deadpool 3, straight from Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds himself:

The BIG reveal comes at the END of this short announcement.

Not only is Deadpool joining to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Appearing with him is Wolverine, played by long-time Logan, Hugh Jackman (when he’s done brushing his teeth).

Fans were so excited by the news, the two actors quickly posted a second video (“Part Hugh”) to share more details (?). Mostly, they acknowledge potential snags due to prior storylines (spoiler alerts). And they stir up more speculation, obscured by the best ’80s pop song ever:

With Deadpool 3 not scheduled to arrive until September 2024, we all have plenty of time to predict how everything will work out. (My bet is any mix-ups get an easy pass thanks to the bloomingMultiverse.”)

Until then, TEACHERS should take a moment to consider the following question:

“Who is YOUR Hugh?”

We’ve talked before about sidekicks in schools, in particular, finding fellow teachers to mentor and lead. Who is your “Robin?”

Likewise, every teacher should also find a colleague that can mentor them. Such mentorships can function through structured programs or professional development. Or, they may occur in a more organic, or informal manner. Who is your “Batman?”

From World’s Finest #1 (2022). Check it out!

In addition to mentors and mentees, teachers can form powerful relationships with colleagues they regard as “equals.” These pairings don’t have to be the same rank or expertise, or have identical job descriptions. In fact, such partnerships are most beneficial when each party brings different strengths and personalities.

Sort of like Wolverine and Deadpool.

Over decades of comics (and lore), these two anti-heroes haven’t always gotten along. In fact, they try to kill each other quite often. You can read an interesting history of their “prickly relationship,” summarized by the folks at Den of Geek.

Teachers, do you have a “prickly relationship” with any of your colleagues? Don’t dismiss them due to a handful of disagreements. Instead, consider how you can work together–or at least work off of each other–to both become better.

Every teacher needs a Robin to mentor. And every teacher needs a Batman to mentor them.

We also need a Hugh to keep us sharp. Who’s yours?

Marvel at the Future . . . AND Past

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Apologies for using the “Marvelous” pun twice in a row, but in this case it’s doubly appropriate.

Not only are we talking about another Marvel superhero; we’re talking about the superhero, Ms. Marvel.

Yes, the Disney+ series has been out for a while, and we’re already in the middle of the new She-Hulk series. We’ll get to that one someday.

Still, we have our reasons for playing “catch-up.” (Busy with an EXCITING project. More on that . . . soon . . .) Plus, what better time to explore themes from the Ms. Marvel show than our current “back-to-school” season?

Specifically, let’s talk about the past, present, and future. All three are key elements in the show, especially in how they pertain to our teenage heroine and her friends.

The very first trailer for Ms. Marvel features a scene in which Kamala meets with her high school guidance counselor. Check out their conference in the first 45 seconds or so:

“Conference” is probably not the correct word. Kamala doesn’t listen to Mr. Wilson as much as she daydreams and can’t wait to escape.

Don’t blame Mr. Wilson. It’s his job to not only be the hip GC, but also help students plan for their future. He does the same with Kamala’s friend Bruno later in the series, sharing news of Bruno’s acceptance into Caltech.

In both cases, Kamala and Bruno are initially ambivalent about looking ahead to tomorrow. That’s because they each have a lot going on in the present – hobbies, jobs, social lives, superpowers, etc.

As teachers, we have to consider the current ups and downs of our students at all times. And we must help them connect their present choices and actions to future dreams, as well as the past.

In the book Teaching as Decision Making (Sparks-Langer et al., 2004), the authors share an analogy that teaching is like building bridges. We start with students on one end, and connect them to content comprehension on the other.

Courtesy of Sparks-Langer et al. (2004), who borrowed it from Starko et al. (2003). It’s a bridge!

It’s a lot more complicated, of course, involving unique characteristics and circumstances, personal beliefs and pedagogy, and relationships. I’d argue this last element – relationships – is the most important, since teaching and learning involves interpersonal connections, communication, and collaboration. These relationships play out among all sorts of individuals, not just those in the classroom.

One of the strongest parts of the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series is attention to Kamala’s family and cultural background. It’s something the show has in common with the original comic book, along with a memorable cast.

The Ms. Marvel television show even takes us on a literal trip across time and space to explore Kamala’s past. Viewers learn about real historical events, and the repercussions still felt today.

As an added bonus, the very end of the show teases a potential connection to even MORE superheroes, when Bruno drops the term “mutation” in explaining Kamala’s powers. Will we see more mutants in the future?

“X” marks the spot . . . sometime soon?

Whether it be a massive geopolitical movement or an individual personal change, everybody has previous experiences and perspectives that shape their lives.

Teachers can truly help students plan their future steps when we seek to understand their history. That’s how we build bridges that last.

Let’s start right now.

Further Reading and Resources:

Sparks-Langer, G.M., Starko, A.J., Pasch, M., Burke, W., Moody, C.D., & Gardner, T.G. (2004). Teaching as Decision Making: Successful Practices for the Secondary Teacher (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merril/Prentice Hall.

Starko, A.J., Sparks-Langer, G.M., Pasch, M., Frankes, L., Gardner, T.G., & Moody, C.D. (2003). Teaching as Decision Making: Successful Practices for the Elementary Teacher (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merril/Prentice Hall.

Wilson, G.W., Alphona, A., Wyatt, J., & Pichelli, S. (2014/2019). Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal. New York: Marvel Comics.

“What if . . . ?” and More Marvelous Questions

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The latest Disney+ Marvel series is new in a multitude (multiverse?) of ways.

First, What if . . . ? is noteworthy as the first animated show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t count . . . not yet, at least.)

Second, What if . . . ? is significant since it explores all kinds of hypothetical storylines in the MCU. The series takes well-known characters and contexts of the films and follows different routes. (Remember when the first Avengers movie combining multiple film heroes was considered a risky idea? Look how far we have come!)

So far, we’ve seen different characters taking the mantle of significant heroes (Captain America, Star-Lord), as well as heroic characters doing unheroic things. In addition to the allure of endless possibilities, the What if . . . ? series is enjoyable because these alternative tales come in bite-sized episodes. Even so, some of these scenarios have potential for all kinds of fun adventures and far-reaching ramifications.

As a testimony to the power of “What if . . . ?” consider how there are 200+ issues of this comic series, begun nearly 50 years ago. As creators publish stories in “regular” comics continuity, other writers can explore branching paths and possibilities.

The question “What if . . . ?” can foster similar results in the classroom. Past blogs have written about the power of questioning, which you can check out HERE and HERE.

It’s important to remember not all questions are equal. Some are more effective in cultivating engaged and reflective students. Below is a list of potential questions teachers can ask to facilitate, encourage, and assess students’ learning.

  • “What if . . . ?”
  • “For what reasons . . . ?”
  • “What do you think could happen if . . . ?”
  • “How might that compare with . . . ?”
  • “Why might . . . ?”
  • “Where else could we . . . ?”

These are just some examples, and I’ve shared more in a recently published article available HERE. Note that NONE of these questions can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No” or similar dichotomous response.

In other words, students have to go further and THINK about the topic in a more robust manner. Moreover, there’s less chance they can “fake it” or just guess an answer. Often, such work promotes collaboration and communication.

Such open-ended questions may not catalyze a zany tale about alternative Avengers, but they can produce meaningful learning.

One caution is to beware of counter-productive conversation. When dealing with open-ended questions like “What if . . . ?” there is potential for students to go down pathways the teacher did not intend. While this may add to creativity and application, it could also veer into darker territories. Just consider some of sadder episodes of What if . . . ? we’ve already seen, in which [Spoiler Alert] a hero becomes the villain, or ultimately destroys their world.

Hopefully your classroom won’t pivot to such hopelessness. Still, be mindful of keeping students on-task and oriented toward learning goals. Even when using open-ended prompts, teachers can guide student thinking toward intended outcomes. Such parameters could be as simple as time limits or brainstorm boundaries. For example, a science teacher might pose a challenge that prompts investigation, but requires students to use only certain materials or technology. Sometimes this is called a “testable question” in science classrooms.

No matter the subject, teachers can be purposeful in using “What if . . . ?”-type questions to get the full effect. For inspiration, consider how masterminds behind the MCU have carefully scheduled and set up movies, television shows, specials, etc. Each production features minute details and allusions that result in monumental meaning in subsequent films. (For example, it’s no coincidence that What if . . . ? has come out between the Loki television series and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home film.)

Teachers don’t have the multi-million dollar movie machine like the MCU, but they can still be intentional and inspirational by providing creative, challenging, and coordinated questions for their students.

Just imagine . . . What if . . . ?

Magic of Meta

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It’s been such a crazy year and a long time since our last post. As evidence, check out this more recent pic of the previous blog’s cute kitten:

Change is actually the topic for this blog. In particular, let’s look at the transformation of superheroes and teachers.

(Slight Spoilers Below!)

Televised Transformations

The new Disney+ show “WandaVision” has been a love letter to sitcom television through the ages. Although it started as a unique gimmick, the episodic show slowly revealed a larger narrative and connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Along the way, viewers got to enjoy a loving homage to past and present TV shows from “I Love Lucy,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Ties,” “Modern Family,” and more.

Interestingly, despite advances in technology and techniques, “WandaVision” as a show didn’t stray much from the standard sitcom formula. Even though styles changed over the decades, each 30-minute episode featured similar jokes, hijinks, character interactions, and more. (And if you’ve seen the show, you might notice parallels to the grieving process.)

True change finally occurs when a new element is introduced. Namely, magic.

Hints of the supernatural popped up throughout, but it wasn’t until “WandaVision” was halfway over when the series truly transformed.

Change in Schools

Teachers, think about the analogy to education. Schools and classrooms are notorious for slow transformation.

Take a look at the following slideshow of classroom photos and notice the similarities over the years.

One of these classroom images isn’t even a REAL school. It’s from the Star Wars show “The Mandalorian.” If that story takes place “in a galaxy far, far away,” it shows how widespread and ingrained our cultural view of schools reaches.

This is not to say that a certain formula is always bad. On the contrary, it often helps to follow a standard template and procedure. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That said, the best teachers (and schools) strive to always get better. That pursuit of improvement requires transformation, which might involve drastic changes from time to time.

The show “WandaVision” demonstrated that minor changes can occur over time, but true innovation requires something more, something magical.

So Meta

A lot of the fun from “WandaVision” has been its meta-commentary on television eras and cultural norms. This involves stepping back from the story and reflecting on the larger picture. The same happens to the characters in the show.

In order for education to improve, teachers and schools must take time to “step back” and reflect. Research on learning supports the powerful role of “metacognition,” or “thinking about thinking.” Educators are encouraged to use metacognition strategies to help students learn, and we should do the same for our own growth, learning, and change.

Metacognition may not be magical, but it can certainly lead to metamorphosis.

________ Forever

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Earlier in 2020, I had planned to celebrate the release of a book featuring a chapter I wrote. I even shared a sneak peek HERE and took some pictures with a little “help” from a fuzzy friend:

Then . . .

a lot of things happened this year.

A LOT of things that made any celebration feel trite or tone deaf.

In a tough year, things got worse with the death of Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman.

However, even in tragedy, hope can shine in celebrating a “super heroic” life.

Many have shared powerful stories of Mr. Boseman’s impact and example. Words to describe him are “tender,” “hard working,” “artist,” “quick-witted,” and “deeply introspective.” You can read more in this essay from The Daily Beast–“Chadwick Boseman Became a Superhero While Battling Cancer“–among many other tributes.

All of us – teachers, learners, and more – can learn from this life of extraordinary accomplishments.

Another essay on CNN shares lessons from the actor: “What Chadwick Boseman taught us about humanity–and how we can honor his legacy.” Here is a summary of the example we can follow:

  • Perseverance.
  • Humility.
  • Passion.
  • Love.

I would argue these traits are especially important for teachers to model for our students, colleagues, and community.

In my book chapter, I examine traits displayed by the character Black Panther in a powerful three-issue comic book series by Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo.

In this story, King T’Challa leads his fellow Wakandans in defending their nation from invading alien Skrulls. (Sentences like the previous one are all thanks to comic books.)

My chapter describes four “21st Century Skills” the Black Panther demonstrates that all of us can aspire to develop and demonstrate on a daily basis:

  • Critical Thinking.
  • Collaboration.
  • Communication.
  • Creativity.

These “skills” are timeless traits to internalize and apply, much like those listed previously.

In a season when times are uncertain–and none of us ever know the exact number of our days–there is still hope for the future.

Perhaps this peace comes from focusing on those ideals that last forever.

Professor ZOOM

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People throw around the word “unprecedented” way too often, but it’s safe to say our society is truly experiencing an unprecedented time in history.

With the current coronavirus pandemic (a.k.a. COVID-19), everyone in education is working to figure out how to operate in this “new normal.”

A big change for many teachers has been teaching class sessions and interacting with students via Zoom or similar videoconference tools.

In a way, many teachers have become “Professor Zoom.” But in a good way.

 

(For those a little rusty on the Flash’s rogues gallery, Professor Zoom is an arch-villain who also has super-speed. And he loves the color yellow.)

ZoomVsFlash

Recently, I wrote a brief article for the “Ed Prep Matters” blog of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). In it, I share how using Zoom has helped me sharpen my overall teaching, focusing on three particular areas.

These critical components apply to both online and face-to-face teaching:

  1. Classroom Norms
  2. Student Questions and Comments
  3. Instructional Behaviors

Here’s a link to this article with more discussion and examples: https://edprepmatters.net/2020/06/what-zoom-reminded-me-about-effective-teaching/ 

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And as an added bonus, here is a FOURTH area where Zoom can help teachers reflect and improve their practice:

4. Group Work

An old joke among educators is group work is what the teacher plans for when they haven’t planned an actual lesson. In truth, effective group work requires purposeful preparation by the teacher—worthwhile tasks, intentional grouping, necessary materials, detailed procedures, and more.

Teaching through Zoom has increased my awareness of collaborative tasks, both in aim and execution, providing the option of using “breakout rooms” during a videoconference.

Teachers can assign groups randomly or manually in Zoom, either ahead of time or during the live session, or both. As host instructor, I can drop into any group I like to listen or assist, although I prefer acting as silent observer to encourage student leadership.

These same habits are ideal in face-to-face classrooms, as carefully planned student collaborations can create a culture of shared responsibility and productive rapport – sort of like the best superhero teams!

 

Flash_Family

 

 

Panther Preview

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It’s almost here!

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Learn more at one of the following:

https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/the-ages-of-the-black-panther/

https://www.bookdepository.com/Ages-Black-Panther/9781476675220?utm_source=SV-Body&utm_medium=email-Service&utm_term=Book_image&utm_content=order-details&utm_campaign=Order-dispatch

 

More details to come about my chapter for teachers . . .

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School-topia*

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houseofxpowersofx

 

Recently, Marvel’s X-Men have shot back into the spotlight both in publishing and super- heroics.

This resurgence started off with the House of X/Powers of X mini-series in Summer 2019, and continues into 2020 with numerous X-titles and storylines.

One of the key elements of this new “Dawn of X” relaunch is that Professor X has created a paradise island nation for all mutantkind.

krakoa

 

The idea of a mutant utopia is NOT new in X-Men comics. In fact, there have been multiple “Mutopia” worlds in alternative universes, including House of M and Battleworld. One look at these stories shows that people’s ideas of a perfect world can be VERY different.

 

One of the most famous X-Men Utopias was an island in San Francisco Bay. Actually, before it was an island, this particular utopia was an asteroid controlled by Magneto. But it’s not that strange when you consider the recent Dawn of X utopia is the living mutant island Krakoa. (Hooray for comic books!)

House-of-X-03-720x741

Here’s the problem with utopias: They almost always end in catastrophe.

Think of any fantasy or sci-fi story featuring a utopian society. Typically, these worlds go crumbling down just in time for the thrilling climax, if they haven’t already collapsed to kick off the adventure.

 

Also, many utopias hide a dark secret that becomes their undoing. It looks like this sort of thing may happen soon for the X-Men’s Krakoan utopia, thanks to shapeshifter Mystique (and Professor X? Magneto?).

magneto_mystique

Something is fishy here.

What about schools and classrooms? Is it possible for such a place to be utopian?

I once heard a principal at a large school speak about the “Perfect Day.” He said that a perfect day is NOT when nothing wrong happens. Rather, a perfect day is when issues come up, and the school teachers and staff handle them the right way.

I like this attitude. It’s not optimistic or pessimistic, but just plain pragmatic.

We are all human, teachers and students alike. None of us are perfect. So why would a school full of kids and adults ever be perfect?

kids-in-classroom

Something is fishy here, too.

In fact, teachers must be careful whenever we think we have reached perfection. No teacher is perfect, no matter their experience or awards. We all struggle and succeed in different areas, and we can all get better at something. The same is true for every day of school.

There is a short essay by Tim Slater in The Physics Teacher warning teachers about utopian school days. It’s called “When is a good day teaching a bad thing?” and you can find it HERE.

And here’s a teaser:

Screen Shot 2020-02-14 at 5.06.20 PM

 

Read the entire article and consider what sort of “Hidden Contract” you may be establishing with your students and colleagues. It’s not that well-behaved, on-task students are a bad thing. Far from it. But pause and consider why and how these expectations arise.

Do your students follow directions and contribute to class because they WANT TO or because the HAVE TO? (An easy way to find out is by leaving the room, or checking with the substitute teacher after an absence.)

Naturally, there are times when students (and all of us) do things because we have to, whether we like it or not. Exercise. Healthy diet. Pay taxes. Change diapers.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit there is a positive payoff from these efforts, even if they are not easy. In many cases, practicing good habits in such endeavors will also increase the ease and even enjoyment.

A “perfect” classroom is impossible (and potentially dangerous). But hopefully teachers can instill solid skills and dispositions in students. One sign of maturity is doing things we don’t feel like doing. Another is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. (I’ve also heard this is the definition of integrity.)

So we may never reach school wide utopia. But maturity and integrity make for a good start!

 

*Admittedly, a much better pun than “School-topia” is “Edutopia.” But George Lucas already has the rights to that one. Take a look at this resource for educators, starting with https://www.edutopia.org .

 

Too Old?

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Happy =belated= Bat-Day!

Detective_Comics_27_(May_1939)

This year was special not only because you could find bat-signals around various cities, but also because 2019 is the 80th anniversary of Batman!

Batman’s 80th birthday is also timely given recent news casting the upcoming movie’s Caped Crusader.

Rpats_Batman

That’s right. Robert Pattinson agreed to take on the role.  He’s best known as Edward from the Twilight films, although I’d argue his best work was Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Nevertheless, this news lets us revisit one of the best meme images ever:

batslap_teamedward

Some fans aren’t happy about Robert Pattinson’s casting, but that’s nothing new. It seems every Batman casting has its detractors, but things usually simmer down after a while. 

Interestingly, another actor’s name came up in the recent Batman casting.

Milo Ventimiglia, the gone-but-never-forgotten hunky dad Jack from NBC’s This is Us, had been interested in donning the cape and cowl. But at 42, he was considered “too old” for the part.

(Author’s Note #1: Robert Pattinson is currently 33.)

(Author’s Note #2: No Batman role in my future, either.)

For now, let’s avoid any discussion of “age discrimination” and turn our attention to TEACHING.

Can you get TOO OLD to teach?

Old-teacher

Let’s first look at the average teacher today. Below is a summary from a U.S. Department of Education study in 2017:

average_teacher

 

Here is another summary of average teacher ages across the entire globe:

average-age-teachers-secondary-schools

 

How do you compare to these numbers?

Are you “above” or “below” average?

I’d argue that age has little to do with being “too old” to teach. Instead, the issue is a combination of a mental, emotional, and physical attributes.

I know some teachers who are qualified for retirement, but are still “young at heart.” They exude enthusiasm and energy in the classroom, becoming an inspirational example of learning for their students.

1414003539099_Image_galleryImage_Three_days_a_week_Madelin

On the other hand, some relatively young teachers already show signs of being tired and uninspired (and uninspiring).

What makes the difference?

We often want our students to be “lifelong learners,” and I’d say the key is to model the same attitude and habits ourselves.

For some, that may mean teaching the same subject for decades, earnest in learning more ideas and methods to enhance their teaching and students’ learning. For others, it may mean adding certifications, degrees, or more, along with potential career changes within the field of education or beyond.

Here are a few other resources to help teachers maintain a youthful enthusiasm for students and education:

Ways to Reclaim Your Joy in Teaching” (Edutopia)

The Teacher Self-Care Conference and The Educator’s Room’s Self-Care Resources

A Never-ending Quest

My favorite “old Batman” story is the Batman Beyond animated series, which features an elderly Bruce Wayne still fighting crime by mentoring a new futuristic (non)Caped Crusader:

batman_beyond

Of course if you want to know how old Batman really is, check out this meticulously researched article here.

It seems Batman would be too old to play himself in movies.

But no one is too old to learn or teach.

It doesn’t matter if you are

70 years old,

85 years old,

91 years old,

100 years old,

or even 102 years old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Break 2019

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Happy Summer Solstice for all of you in the Northern Hemisphere!

SolsticeDCU

Check out “Five Fun Facts” about the longest day of the year.

Since it is officially summer according to astronomical coordinates, it’s time to officially celebrate summer for every teacher (even if you are still in a classroom somewhere).

For teachers who need something to do over the “break,” read the following resources:

 

You can also take a look at some highlights from the past school year:

 

Keep on reading and learning . . .