My favorite of 2022 was the new “Batman/Superman: World’s Finest” series by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain. It’s a fresh take on the old-fashioned DC team-up title. The art is dynamic and colorful, with big action mixing up characters both well-known and unknown.
Comics aren’t just full of superheroes, of course, as you’ll notice many different kinds of tales in these “Best” Comic Books.
For more capes and cowls, you can also find “Top” lists ranking favorite superhero television series, such as one by the folks at IGN.
Again, my two-cents’ worth is that Ms. Marvel was the best choice in a very robust slate of superhero TV in 2022.
I’ve already talked about Ms. Marvel in a previous post. Simply put, it’s another fun teen title in the tone of Spider-Man.
Like Spidey, Ms. Marvel begins with our hero learning about their powers and living among family and friends. But “trial-and-error” adventures at the street level soon explode into a globe-hopping (and time-traveling) quest. Good stuff!
In addition to TV and Comics, there are even “Top” lists for Teachers!
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from their Top Ten:
#1 THERE’S NO CONFLICT BETWEEN RELATIONSHIPS AND RIGOR
“The researchers found that the most effective teachers build their classrooms by getting to know their students, being approachable, and showing that they enjoy the work—and then deftly translate emotional capital into academic capital.”
#10. AN AUTHORITATIVE STUDY OF TWO HIGH-IMPACT LEARNING STRATEGIES
“In the review, researchers explain that students who prefer techniques like reading and rereading material in intense cram sessions are bound to fail. Instead, students should think of learning as a kind of ‘fitness routine’ during which they practice recalling the material from memory and space out their learning sessions over time.”
Similar to “Top” rankings for the previous year, you’ll also find “Most Anticipated” lists previewing upcoming movies, comic books, and more.
Just as teachers can gain insight from reviewing the “best” of the past, they can also find inspiration in previewing the future.
What are you anticipating most in the next year? (Maybe a new book?)
Better yet, how can you help your students look forward to the future?
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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?
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 blooming “Multiverse.”)
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?”
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 Homefilm.)
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.