Keen-eyed readers will notice that this blog has recently changed its official name from Teaching is for Superheroes! to Teach Like a Superhero! (The exclamation point remains!)
Not that big of a change, really, except that the new name rolls off the tongue a little more easily. Another change is the primary web address: http://www.teachlikeasuperheroblog.com. This new URL is not very short, but it gets to the point.
(I tried a shorter address, but “www.tlash.com” sounds like an eyeliner product. And a good of an excuse as any to share this meme inspired by Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
This post is not just an announcement about blog name changes.
Let’s talk about names of superheroes and names of teachers.
I remember two things from my very first teacher back-to-school in-service meeting. The first memory is a litany of details regarding health insurance and employee benefits. The second memory is our assistant principal reminding us all that we are “Mr. Smith,” not “Smith” or “Mr. S.”
His point was to start the school year establishing a professional identify and requiring our students to address us as such. It may seem like no big deal for a student to abbreviate your name (“Mr. B.”) or leave off your honorific (“Bergman”). Some teachers may even welcome such nicknames to foster a more relaxed classroom environment.
But we must always be careful to not get too comfortable with our students. Stop and consider the range of impacts this lackadaisical habit could impart.
I’m sure I’ve allowed my students to call me all sorts of things and get away with it. But it does help to maintain a level of respect among everyone – teacher to student, student to teacher, teacher to teacher, student to student, and more.
Proper names matter among superheroes, too, and not just with maintaining secret identities. Personally, I cringe whenever I read superheroes calling each other playful nicknames.
They’re heroes, not BFFs!
Superhero nicknames have long been a staple in comics. Witty banter and clever monikers keep the “funny” in funny books, after all. And it helps convey some characters’ personalities.
Wolverine, for example, with Colossus:
And here (off-panel) with Professor Xavier:
The best name-caller, of course, was Stan “The Man” Lee, who was so proficient he even came up with nicknames for his real-life co-workers (e.g. Jack “The King” Kirby, “Jazzy” Johnny Romita, “Merry” Gerry Conway, and many MANY more right here).
Like any good joke, though, overuse of superhero sobriquets can get tiresome. Especially among champions who should focus their attention on more important things – like fighting bad guys and saving the world!
What’s worse, many of these affectionate nicknames can actually undermine the job of life-risking heroics.
“Spidey” for Spider-Man works fine for his hip quippy character; but take a look at other heroes and their less-dignified labels:
Batman = “Bats”
Superman = “Supes”
Green Lantern = “GL”
Ugh. Apparently, characters in the DC Universe have a thing for abridging names. Marvel nicknames, though more colorful, can still cheapen a heroic legacy.
The Mighty Thor = “Goldilocks”
The Hulk = “Ol’ Greenskin”
Iron Man = “Shellhead”
Captain America = “Cap,” “Winghead,” “Star-Spangled Avenger”
We come back to Captain America because it’s maybe the clearest example of a noble hero who’s legendary status is downgraded by casual familiarity. And it’s not just by fellow heroes, but even by us regular citizens.
Call me a Stick-in-the-Mud (“Bromidic Bergman”), but superheroes deserve a little more formality. The same goes for teachers. Although it may seem cool for kids to use teacher nicknames, be careful with letting things get too capricious or contemptuous.
So whenever you hear a student or colleague refer to you as “Mrs. T” or “Thompson” or “Yo, Teach,” gently remind them how they can address you more properly.
Just remember, it’s not “Mr. F.” It’s Mr. Fantastic.
And it’s not “Incredible;” it’s Mr. Incredible.
And it’s not “Marvel;” it’s Ms. Marvel.
Actually, the original Ms. Marvel goes by Captain Marvel now.
But never “Cap.”