Black Adam Gets Schooled

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DC’s Black Adam movie has been out for a while, but I finally sat down to watch it. If you like LOUD explosions and slooooow-motion action sequences, this movie is for you!

Personally, I prefer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson less self-indulgent . . .

And more self-deprecating, like in the newer Jumanji films.

The neatest take-away I got from Black Adam is the “student-teacher” relationship between Adam and the teenager Amon. In particular, there’s a Terminator 2-type juxtaposition of the younger Amon trying to teach the elder Black Adam how to be a hero.

Specifically, the film focuses on superhero tropes like wearing a cape and using a well-timed catchphrase.

Black Adam eventually gets both lessons right (sort of). Still, he struggles with more serious, ethical principles like “Heroes don’t kill.”

Oh well. Two out of three ain’t half-bad.

There’s a problematic parallel in schools today. A lot of students (and non-teachers) have plenty of experience in classrooms. This familiarity can create an assumed expertise about “good teaching.”

In the same way that teenage Amon figures he knows all about heroes (he doesn’t), some students–current and former–might presume to be pedagogical experts (they aren’t).

Heck, I’ve worked in the education field my entire professional life, and I KNOW there’s LOTS I don’t know. (Proper grammar, anyone?) With every year that passes, I’m learning more and more.

Problems arise when students turn into teachers without transforming their understanding, attitudes, and application of effective instruction. Sadly, some remain fixed in latent beliefs and paltry practice. They incorrectly conclude there’s nothing for them to learn, since they’ve been in schools ever since they can remember.

She’s coming for your job!

Education historian Larry Cuban puts it this way: “Recruits to the occupation lean toward continuity because of their prior school experiences. As public school students for twelve years, future teachers unwittingly served an apprenticeship as they watched their teachers teach” (1993, p. 19).

This dilemma is not new. As a result, some of the underlying issues schools face – uninspired classrooms, fill-in-the-blank rote memorization, “teach to the test” – are the same ones they’ve been dealing with for years.

Back in 1969, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner described this narrow student-to-teacher transition as follows: “most of them simply move from one side of the desk (as students) to the other side (as ‘teachers’) and they have not had much contact with the way things are outside of school rooms” (p. 139).

Early (grainy) footage of me as a college student. I’m teaching “to the board” as opposed to my students. (Evidence that I had a lot more to learn about teaching.)

I’ll admit, I made a similar “change” when I first began as a teacher. In fact, before I even started my pre-service teacher program, I doubted the value for going through formal preparation. Like some teachers before me, I thought I knew enough about my subject to teach it. And more troubling, I thought I knew enough about teaching.

Clearly, I did NOT know enough about either.

Like young Amon in Black Adam, I know my share of superhero lore. But I’ve never been a superhero. And I wouldn’t deign to tell somebody how to be one. Especially Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

First Lesson of Hero Club: Don’t touch the shiny helmet.

I know a bit more about teaching. A little knowledge came from my time as a student. More importantly, I learned from mentors who provided purposeful instruction and practice as a teacher. And I’m still learning.

Like the best students, the best teachers are eager to learn more. What are you learning?

Never too old to learn. (Or sport a new backpack.)

Resources:

Cuban, L. (1993). How teachers taught. New York: Teachers College Press.

Postman, N., & Weingartner, C. (1969). Teaching As a Subversive Activity. New York: Delacorte Press.

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