The fall television season is upon us, and it’s full of several shows (some old, some new) featuring superheroes.

In fact, there are so many comic book-based shows on TV that you could make the argument it’s the “Golden Age of Television Superheroes.”


I’m waiting to see how these shows turn out and how the Netflix/Marvel deal transpires.  On the surface, though, things look promising.  Here’s a useful list summarizing all of the current, new, and future superhero and/or comic book-themed shows, courtesy of the fine folks at Newsarama.

Also from Newsarama, here are their 10 BEST and 10 WORST Comic Book Live-Action TV Series of All Time.  (Animated series is a whole different category, but it’s safe to bet on anything related to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.)

For now, I’d say the Golden Age of TV Superheroes was the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, which gave us gems like The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Greatest American Hero, and Spider-Man on The Electric Company (with narration by Mr. March of the Penguins himself, Morgan Freeman).  


As a bonus, this era also included The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, and preceded the wave of cool-vehicle-based shows like Knight RiderAirwolf, Street Hawk, and Magnum, P.I., which featured the one-two combo of a Ferrari 308GTS and Tom Selleck’s mustache!


‘Stache trumps the car every time . . .

Getting off topic here, so let’s talk about television and teaching.

How do you use TV and videos in the classroom?

Shameless plug:  I’ve done a little writing in the past about using movies and video clips to enhance science lessons.  You can read a little bit about that here and here.

No matter what you teach, below are a few tips about sharing video clips with your students:

1. Decide WHY you need the video.

What does the video do that you can’t do in another way, including hands-on experiences, interactive presentations, collaborative discussions, outdoor investigations, role-play scenarios, and more?  Sure, using a video clip is easy because you can pop in the disc or click on the computer.  But what materials and activities will create the most meaningful and memorable learning?  If it’s a video, then go for it!

2. Make it an active, not passive process.

Related to #1 above, students should not just act as passive audience members during the viewing.  Give them something to do while they watch.  Observe and categorize specific attributes, list examples and/or questions, answer questions or prompts on a handout.

With the handout approach, be careful that you don’t make it a scavenger hunt for trivia.  If you do, students will pay attention to those tidbits only and not benefit from the overall experience.  If you want them to complete a handout, be sure you emphasize just a few key concepts so students don’t get bogged down looking to fill in a mundane list of blanks.

Very rarely will a video by itself teach the students anything worthwhile.  As a teacher, you need to be there to guide students’ thinking and foster discussion.  This includes before and after the video, as well as during.  (You’ve got that pause button for a reason!)  Remember the ideal rating of “TG:  Teacher Guidance Suggested.”

3. Decide WHEN you should show the video.

Videos are more than “rewards” students can enjoy at the end of a unit or after a test.  What’s the value if you wait until then to show it?  Instead, reflect on your unit sequence and consider when a particular video best serves the students’ learning.  You could use it as an eye-catching opening, part of an introductory pretest or puzzler, a formative review or extension, a prompt for homework or application, or even part of a summative assessment.

4. Keep it short and sweet.

Very rarely should something as dull as a “movie day” occur in your classroom.  A common rule of thumb in education is no activity or task should last longer than 20 minutes during class.  By breaking things up, teachers can help students stay focused and motivated to learn.  The same goes for video clips.  Stick to showing the key scene or segment that matters, which may only be a couple of minutes at a time.

Furthermore, when using a clip from a popular movie or television show, I never show the ending.  Sometimes I don’t even show the end of the scene, leaving the students with a cliffhanger and spawning a chorus of disappointed groans from the class.  But consider how much this motivates them to think further after class is finished.  What parent wouldn’t be thrilled if their son or daughter asked them to check Netflix or take a trip to Family Video so they can finish a movie they first saw in school?


Bus jump from “Speed.”  Will Keanu and Sandra make it?  Let’s do PHYSICS!

Another reason for using a specific clip is to edit out any superfluous or inappropriate content.  Speaking of which . . .

5. Get parental and principal approval.

When using any entertainment-based media, or even educational materials that may be controversial, plan ahead and check with your supervisors (principal, department chair, etc.) to see if they have any concerns or advice.  At times, they may recommend sending a note or email to students’ parents/guardians so everyone is clear on the content and purpose of the media.  And for any sensitive topics, it provides the opportunity to opt out if anyone objects.  It also is helpful to have a back-up activity or alternative task for those who may not watch the video, whether by choice or by circumstance.

6. Keep it legal.

All kinds of stories exist about the proper use of media by teachers and threatening lawsuits from corporations.  If you’re not sure what is okay or not okay about using media, check with your school’s media specialist (a.k.a. librarian), who usually knows the latest.

Also, here is a terrific resource for teachers regarding copyright and “fair use” guidelines, provided by TechLearning.  I’ve saved this PDF onto my computer and printed copies to keep in my teaching binders as a quick reference.

For me, the most important guideline is found in the “Fine Print” about videos: “use should be instructional, not for entertainment or reward.”

So will anything from the current crop of Superhero TV shows be worthy of classroom use?  Tune in to find out!

Teachers for Hire


Happy Labor Day!  (To all you Americans, at least.)

In honor of the “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” let’s talk about the labors of teaching.

No, we’re not going to do some cheesy comparison between the labors of teachers and the legendary labors of Marvel Comics’ hero Hercules (but you can read here to learn more, especially if you need a new spin on teaching Greek myths).

herc lightning

First labor: Reenact He-Man’s “by the power of Greyskull!” bit.

Let’s talk about the work of teachers.  

Back when I was in college, I told one of my former high school teachers I was going into teaching.  His response was something like “Teaching is a noble profession.  But it’s a terrible job.”

While this may come across as discouraging at first, my mentor went on to say that the work of a teacher is important and rewarding, but it’s not for everyone.  If you just want a career to pay the bills, he explained, go find a different job.  But if you want to make a difference no matter the cost, then teaching is for you.

It’s not about the money, money, money . . . 

Most of us in the teaching profession know that you don’t go into it to get rich.  Not financially speaking, at least.  

Honestly, I never thought much about my future paychecks when I decided to pursue teaching as my college major.  As a kid, I had always respected my teachers and thought highly of them (most of them, at least) as model citizens in our small town.  Financial stability seemed to be part of that elevated status.  

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my “Intro to Teaching” class in college where on the first day our instructor told us, “Why do you want to be a teacher?  The pay is lousy.”

Talk about a bummer way to start my adventure in teacherhood.  I think this guy was trying to get us to realize teaching is something you do for more than a paycheck.  His approach just wasn’t quite as polished as it could be.  Or maybe he wanted to scare away all the undergrads who thought teaching would be a cinch job – summer vacations, 8:00 to 3:00 work hours, and all those notions.

Studies and Statistics

Depending on whom you ask, teachers are either overpaid or underpaid.  If you ask me, I’d probably say it depends on the teacher.  (If you ask the New York Times, it’s . . . complicated.)

Actually, someone DID ask me about teacher pay once.  It was when I was teaching at my first job and the local newspaper wanted to interview various teachers about potential state legislation increasing teacher pay (the bill failed, by the way).  At the time of the interview, my answer was basically, “I’m not in it for the money, but I’d happily take more!”  

If I remember correctly, I also talked about how I was a single young teacher living in a small apartment and could easily get by on a modest salary.  (Times have changed.  Just ask my wife and five kids.  And two dogs.  And six cats.)

The only other thing I recall from the interview is I explained how there are multiple opportunities for teachers to increase their paychecks.  Teachers typically “move up the pay scale” for taking graduate courses and completing additional degrees.  Teachers can often receive stipends for attending workshops and other “professional development” opportunities outside of the regular school schedule.  Teachers also receive a little bit of extra pay for helping out with extracurricular activities–coaching, sponsoring clubs and activities, leading committees, and so on.  

Of course, all of this extra work does require extra minutes, hours, days, weeks, and more.  Speaking of which . . . 

Time after time . . .

Other studies report on the amount of time teachers spend working.  Things are much more complicated than the notion that teachers get three months off for summer vacation.  Again, I think it depends on the teacher.  But here’s a neat “infographic” that breaks things down:


Of course, this image was brought to us by, so it may be a little biased.  

Other reviews are mixed, including ones that review similar data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (glass half-full vs. glass half-empty).  There are also some interesting results from a teacher survey completed by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, summarized here in The Washington Post.  You can find more details, including state-by-state results, at this link.

So how does this all relate to superheroes?  

(You mean, besides the lame Herc reference above?)

Back in the 1970s, Marvel Comics featured a superhero team called “Heroes for Hire, Inc.” founded by Iron Fist and Power Man (Luke Cage, the original “Hero for Hire.”)  The basic premise is superheroes will help out the common man–security, investigation, thwarting the schemes of villians–all for a fee.  

70s heroes Heroes_for_Hire_1997,_1 h4h1_1

Through the years, the Heroes for Hire team has undergone various incarnations, including several attempts at long-running series.  Most of the series, though, last for about a year before getting cancelled.  It seems that the idea of superheroes working for hire–albeit a realistic scenario–is not as appealing to readers as their pro bono colleagues with secret identities.  

By the way, Hercules has been a member of the Heroes for Hire from time to time.  Even the “Prince of Power” needs to pay the bills.

Teachers need to an income, too.  But it’s more than a paycheck.  It should be a labor of love.

Happy Labor Day to teachers everywhere.  And remember how you can contribute to the “strength, prosperity, and well-being” of your students and community.  It is a priceless gift.