Still, a lot has been said already about Kang (and actor Jonathan Majors), with his introduction as the next major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re talking Thanos-level malevolence here.
Understandably, people want to chat about Kang the Conqueror–his backstory in the comics, potential connections to MCU shows and films, his powers and motivations, and much more. But we won’t dive too deeply here, to avoid any spoiler territory. (If you’re curious, click on any of the links in this paragraph and speculate away.)
All this talk about the next new villain got me thinking about teaching. If teachers are like superheroes, then who plays the “villain” role?
Who is YOUR archenemy?
Or at the least, who’s your rival?
Or maybe just someone who bugs you. Whether they know it or not, sometimes this person drives you nuts.
To help reflect on educational antagonists, look at classic superhero/villain pairings.
Sometimes they are complete opposites. Superman is super-strong and a “boy scout.” Lex Luthor is super-smart and a malicious “man-child.” Or contrast the stoic, calculating Batman with the crazy, maniacal Joker.
Archenemies can also be too much alike. Their mutual strengths create immediate conflict. Think of Wolverine and Sabretooth, both with claws, feral fighting skills, and healing factors. Or consider the intellectual enmity between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom.
Another source of friction is a fundamental difference in ideology. Professor X seeks peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, whereas Magneto prefers violent uprising and mutant dominance, no matter the cost. Captain America and Red Skull epitomize the Allies vs. Axis sides of World War II.
Remember, these examples are fiction. Superhero/villain matchups are mere illustrations for the types of conflict that can occur between two real people. I sincerely hope any opposition in schools is much less vindictive and destructive.
As teachers, we should use moments of disagreement as opportunities to model healthy communication and compromise. Remember, your students are watching!
That said, something (or someone) that is unethical or illegal should NOT win.
I remember a high school principal explaining one experience he had where “win-win” was not a viable option. Their school building was facing increased pressure and influence from violent gang activity. This principal shared how their school staff, students, families, and community banded together to find a “win-lose” solution: they were going to win; the gangs were going to lose (and leave).
Hopefully, the day-to-day conflicts and friction teachers experience are not as dire. And in any case, we can focus on productive (and creative) outcomes, with student learning and growth as the ultimate goal.
Here are just two resources for working with others (including those you can’t stand):
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?
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?
Batman’s 80th birthday is also timely given recent news casting the upcoming movie’s Caped Crusader.
That’s right. Robert Pattinsonagreed 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:
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.
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:
Recently, Marvel Comics released the landmark issue Captain America #700, which includes a special back-up story using unpublished pages drawn by the late, great co-creator Jack Kirby with a new script by current writer Mark Waid.
Check out this classic artwork brought to life:
In the new Avengers: Infinity War film, Cap has a whole new look. Besides facial hair and muted uniform colors, another noticeable difference is his missing shield.
Each of these shields are unique, but they all serve as both defensive and offensive tools.
Captain America has his shield. Spider-man’s got his “web-shooters.” Batman has endless batarangs. Green Lantern uses his ring (and lantern).
What trademark tools do teachers use?
Perhaps the most iconic tool of teachers is the chalkboard (and all its derivations). Just do a quick Google search of the word “teacher” and you’ll discover an array of people posing in front of a chalkboard:
As seen in these images, the chalkboard is cross-cultural and used world-wide.
Much like Captain America’s shield, teachers’ chalkboards have transformed over the years.
First we have the chalkboard:
In black OR green varieties!
Then we got the overhead projector:
You can face the entire class while you write – BONUS!
Then came whiteboards:
Less chalk dust, but more mind-altering marker smells!
Add a projector and computer connectivity, and you get a SMARTBoard:
More recently, the advent of “Augmented Reality” (AR) is a new addition to standard SMARTBoards. Here are two photos courtesy of the March/April 2018 issue of THE Journal:
No matter the board, each version serves in the same general capacity – to display visual information, record ideas, provide an avenue for students and teachers to share, and more.
And like Captain America’s shield, the actual effectiveness of the tool depends on the expertise and ingenuity of the user. A state-of-the-art tool used poorly yields shoddy results.
Honestly, the above photos of AR-using teachers are problematic. In one, the teacher is fixated on the board instead of the students; in the second, the computer station is a barrier blocking the teacher from her students. Both examples are just snapshots, but both could be improved with more flexibility and responsiveness to the students.
Let’s look again at Captain America’s multiple shields. Besides the standard round metal variety, I’m particularly fond of Cap’s energy shield. One version of this tool could change according to the user’s purpose:
So teachers, whether you have a dusty chalkboard or spiffy AR-enhanced SMARTBoard, or anything between, please be sure to use it well. Practice to increase efficiency. Welcome student contributions. And use it creatively, adjusting to the context of the lesson and learners’ individual needs.
If you pay attention to sports, you may know about basketball super-star LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If you don’t pay attention to sports, here’s a recap of “King James” highlights:
After recent struggles with player morale, LeBron’s Cavaliers team underwent a massive personnel shift, trading away 6 of their current players and 2 future draft picks in exchange for 4 new players and 1 different draft pick. To put this into context, these changes involved 3 separate deals with 4 different teams, resulting in a turnover of nearly half the entire Cavaliers team.
Teams typically don’t make changes this big so late in a season, but since the trades Cleveland has handily won two games against tough teams. Now, many experts have already pegged the Cavaliers as the “team to beat” in their conference.
One of the new Cavaliers players, George Hill, recently assessed his team this way:
“We have one of the best players in the history of the game, I’m sure he’s going to dictate the tempo and things like that. We just got to do our job, be the best role players we can possibly be. He’s the Batman, and we got to be all Robins. We got to figure it out.”
What about all of us teachers? Are you Batman? Or are you a Robin? I would argue that teachers should be BOTH.
First, you are Batman.
Consider how you can mentor and guide a younger teacher also working in the crusade for education. You can provide lesson ideas, management suggestions, and an exemplary model of a caring and competent professional educator.
Need some ideas on how you can be a Batman for other teachers? Take a look at these articles (and excerpts) about being a teacher leader and mentor:
“Becoming a teacher leader” (Edutopia.org) — “[T]ry all the opportunities presented, listen up for colleagues who are nudging you along, and don’t be afraid to take risks — that’s what it’s all about.”
“Leading change from the classroom: Teachers as leaders” (American Institutes for Research) — “Today, leadership roles have begun to emerge and promise real opportunities for teachers to impact educational change-without necessarily leaving the classroom. Teachers are now serving as research colleagues, working as advisor-mentors to new teachers, and facilitating professional development activities as master teachers.”
“Eight qualities of a great teacher mentor” (Education Week) — “Great mentors push your thinking and help you grow in new ways. They alert you to new teaching methods and provide tips for how to handle various situations throughout the year. Most importantly, though, these “tips” are often posed as questions. Questions require new teachers to discover and learn for themselves.”
So in some ways, being a teacher is like being Batman. (Just don’t let it go to your head–and eat a Snickers when necessary.)
You are also a Robin.
As an exemplary teacher, hopefully you are also modeling the commendable habits of a lifelong learner. You are supportive, a sounding board, eager to help, and even provide corny jokes when the opportunity arises.
The neat thing about Robin is that there are multiple versions. Each individual has his or her own personality, backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and more.
In fact, DC Comics featured a whole host of “Robins” in the yearlong series We Are Robin. As explained by series writer Lee Bermejo in a USA Today article, “Maybe there could possibly be many of these kids out there on the streets who have different talents and different capabilities that could be useful to Batman.”
Likewise, teachers can fulfill the supportive, helpful, humor role in many ways and at many times. This includes having a “mentee attitude” throughout your career. Lifelong learning means there’s always more to learn. (The best teachers always strive to get better.)
The new Avengers: Infinity War trailer came out and is already setting records, as you can read in this Forbes article.
Here is a quick breakdown of the trailer’s impact, courtesy of Fizziology:
Putting Captain America’s beard aside, I’d say the most exciting element of the trailer is NOT the big battles or bad guys. Sure, we get Thanos and multiple fights. But the BEST part is seeing how all these heroes work with each other.
Just take a look at the “screen cap” attached to the official trailer’s YouTube video:
It’s Bucky! Black (Blonde?) Widow! Cap (and his beard)! Hulk! War Machine! Falcon! Black Panther and a whole bunch of Wakandans!
The last time movie-goers saw most of these characters, they were arguing and battling each other. But all it takes to make amends is a world-conquering villain. That’s friendship for ya.
If you’ve paid attention to recent superhero movies, the theme of FRIENDS appears quite often.
No, not THAT theme . . . apologies . . .
We mean REAL friends. To remove the “ear-worm” song from above, take a closer look at the following trailers of current movies.
Start with Thor: Ragnarok . . .
Thor’s “friend from work” comment at the 1:20 mark is one of the best lines in the entire film.
(Fun fact – there’s a neat story about the origin of that line, which came from an unlikely source. Read more here.)
Or check out this Justice League trailer and listen around 1:50 for Barry Allen/Flash’s awkward “I need friends” admittance to Bruce Wayne.
Everyone needs friends, and that includes TEACHERS.
Unfortunately, teaching can quickly become an “isolated profession,” and you can read more about this “Lone Ranger” phenomenon in an article by The AtlanticHERE.
Here is a summary of one study about “High-quality collaboration” and its benefits to teachers and students. There’s a useful section in the article called “What this means for practitioners,” and if you’re in a hurry, here’s one excerpt from the summary:
School and teacher factors influence the quality and type of collaboration. Teachers in elementary schools, more so than in secondary schools, collaborated more frequently about instruction. Higher-quality collaboration is more common among female teachers than male teachers, particularly about instructional strategies, curriculum, and assessment.
Another study of middle school teachers found positive results from “professional learning communities” (PLCs) consisting of same-subject, same-grade teacher teams. However, overall effectiveness depended on a lot of factors: “leadership and organizational practices, the substantive details of PLC activity meetings, the nature of conversations in PLC activities, and the development of community among PLC teams.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that last statement about influential factors for successful collaborations. This is the challenge of teacher teamwork.
You can’t force friendship, and you can’t coerce teachers to collaborate. As these studies show, effective collaboration requires meaningful application and multiple nuances to result in teacher buy-in and worthwhile work.
As with most interpersonal relationships, the process is delicate and sometimes messy. Just consider how well superheroes get along (or not) throughout their long history.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping each other get along and collaborate. Even so, here are three resources (and highlights) that could help.
When you have a bad idea, like giving students stupid awards, a good teacher friend will tell you, “Heck, no!” When you’re thinking about writing a parent a nice-nasty reply to a note and you let your teacher friend proof it, a good teacher friend will tell you, “Nope, edit this so you won’t get fired.”
Virtual Collaboration: Share Work Products on a Common Drive
By sharing work products on Google Drive . . . teachers know what their colleagues outside of their collaboration group are doing. They also know how they’re doing it. This enables them to replicate and/or get ideas from each other.
Even without meeting in person, they have instant access to work products, like:
If I had it to do again, this is what I would do to get the most out of my formal and informal collaborations with other teachers:
Observe the best
The above ideas are not as “scholarly” as the research studies shared earlier. But they can still provide useful steps. At the least, none of these education offerings require a world-conquering villain. Be thankful for that!