Who needs friends?

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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.  

friend from work

(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.

i need friends

 

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 Atlantic HERE.

A growing research field focuses on teacher collaboration and how to help educators work together.  Some people consider teacher collaboration as the “missing link” in successful school reform.

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.

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“7 Reasons Why You Need a Teacher Friend” (Tame the Classroom)

#1: You need someone to tell you “no” 

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.”

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“Teacher Collaboration: Matching Complimentary Strengths” (Edutopia)

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:

  • Unit plans
  • Lesson plans
  • Curriculum maps

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“Making the Most Out of Teacher Collaboration” (Edutopia)

Personal Steps to Effective Collaboration

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:

  • Build relationships
  • Observe the best
  • Ask questions
  • Share
  • Come prepared

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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!

 

infinity-war-thanos-brolin

 

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Heroic Integration

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It’s been a while since our last blog post and we have all kinds of critically important issues to talk about, starting with . . . OH YEAH!  AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON super-duper blockbuster opens THIS WEEKEND!  

ageofultron

The latest greatest superhero movie can provide a useful springboard for exploring the dangers of relying too much on technology (e.g. resulting in an evil sentient robot that tries to kill all humankind). Forget a vengeful Ultron or iPad; beware of students plugged in but tuned out to meaningful learning.

We’ll table that discussion for another time, however, given recent chatter about another famous Marvel character who may possibly join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the big screen:  Spider-Man.

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Thanks to Photoshop, we already have a poster!

Like Captain America and company, Spider-Man is a mainstay Marvel Comics character. But up until now, everyone’s favorite web-slinger has appeared in his separate series of movies due to film rights owned by Sony Pictures.

spidey and avengers panel

Confused? Don’t worry, because bigwig producers have signed important papers and the stars have aligned and now Spidey can swing along with the Avengers in the official “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” or MCU.

Fan reaction has been understandably joyous, given the potential team-up between Marvel’s flagship hero and Marvel’s flagship hero team. Heck, the good folks at IGN have already imagined what Age of Ultron would look like with Spider-Man in the mix.  Take a look at their trailer here, if you’re curious.

Enthusiasm has erupted for integrating even more heroes in the movies. Speculation abounds if Marvel’s other movie heroes – the X-Men, the Fantastic Four – could ever merge into the MCU.  Even Wolverine’s Hugh Jackman wants to join in the mix.

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Coming to a movie theater near you?

Such integration of superheroes (a.k.a. worlds colliding) may appear as a bounty of riches; but there could be a downside.

Ever heard of too much of a good thing?

A common feature of disappointing superhero movies is a glut of characters in the script. Spider-Man 3 had Sandman and Venom and the Green Goblins clogging the villain faucet. Batman & Robin was actually Batman and Robin and Batgirl and Poison Ivy and Bane and Mr. Freeze. Superman III had Richard Pryor.

Superman3

Proving that “Two’s a Crowd.”

Curriculum Integration in schools is another appealing mash-up that may have a hidden downside or two.

Curriculum Integration image

Basically, integrating curriculum is what teachers do when they teach lessons combining two or more major subjects or disciplines. Examples are as obvious as teaching algebra and graphing with a science experiment, and as unique as an instructor’s imagination. I know of a middle school that features a building-wide interdisciplinary unit all about the Greek Olympics. Every class studies some aspect of the ancient athletes – math, history, language arts, visual arts, science, P.E., and more.

Olympic_Rings

Sounds neat, right? And perhaps a little daunting to pull off, given the coordination of teachers, resources, and activities. But that’s just a challenge, not the downside. The upside is collaborative educators and students energized by explicit and relevant connections among various scholarly endeavors (subjects).

The danger of curriculum integration in classrooms is similar to those in superhero movies. Cramming in too much can end up in confusion and misconceptions. Content may be watered down, spread thin, or lost in the shuffle.

Take a minute to look at this article, “A Caveat: Curriculum Integration Isn’t Always a Good Idea,” by Jere Brophy and Janet Alleman for a more robust examination of this strategy. Better yet, print it out and read it while you wait in line for your Avengers movie tickets. Or download it on your portable digital device.

Technology can be great. So can curriculum integration. Just be careful.

Super Women (and Men)

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March is Women’s History Month, and Edutopia has provided several lesson ideas teachers can use to help students examine “women’s contributions, struggles, and triumphs throughout history.”

In recent history, Marvel Comics has given more support to their female superheroes, with solo titles starring a new Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel (the old Ms. Marvel), Black Widow, Spider-Woman, and much much more . . .

An all-female X-Men team stars in the relaunched comic book X-Men.

XWomen

Why not “X-Women?”

An all-female Avengers team will soon star in a book called A-Force.

AFORCE-1

Better than “FemForce,” although such a comic DOES exist.

Heck, even Thor is a woman right now, which hasn’t pleased everyone.

thor female

If I had a hammer . . . . I’d shatter the glass ceiling.

For their part, DC Comics has recently given Wonder Woman long sleeves:

new wonderwoman costume

Speaking of Wonder Woman, Harvard professor Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman has earned all kinds of praise and prizes for its examination of the iconic super heroine’s creation as well as women’s history in the 20th century, which circles us back to the start of this blog post.

What does this have to do with teaching?

For better or worse, teaching has often been looked as a “woman’s profession.” In fact, another Harvard-based publication refers to teaching as “Woman’s ‘True’ Profession.”

While this notion may help to empower women and celebrate their impact on society, it can also lead to fewer men working as teachers, especially with younger grades. For example, a study in England found that 25% of all primary schools are staffed entirely by women. Is this good or bad? As a happily married male, I will respectfully and delicately sidestep that discussion for another time.

Another study in England found that women are disproportionally fewer in roles of “headteachers” and “school senior leaders” (translation: administrative and school leadership roles). Such a gender imbalance is probably not a good thing.

Male or female, super-powered or human, Marvel or DC, all teachers play a vital role in successful student learning. Or, as one new book says, “it takes team effort:”

it takes team effort book

“Men and Women working together to enhance children’s lives.”

That’s a wonderful thing.

Iconic Images

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A nifty cool comic book blog everyone should check out is “Comics Should Be Good” via the Comic Book Resources website.

 

Every once in a while, the folks at CSBG post a new entry in their “Top Five Most Iconic Covers” collection, in which they list the five most iconic covers of a particular superhero (or villain).  Neat stuff!

 

CSBG’s latest hero getting Iconic Covers treatment is Captain America, probably because of the upcoming release of a little film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier (coming to a theater near YOU on April 4th, 2014!).

 

If you’re curious, here are the top five iconic Captain America comic book covers, according to Comics Should Be Good.

 

If you’re doubly curious, here are MY top five covers of the StarSpangled Avenger, in chronological order:

Captain America, Vol. 1, #260; cover by Al Milgrom; August 1981

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Captain America, Vol. 1, #332; cover by Mike Zeck and Klaus Janson; August 1987

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These first two images may be downers, but they’re still iconic.

How about more heroic images?  Okay.

Captain America, Vol. 1, #450; cover by Ron Garney; April 1996

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Captain America, Vol. 4, #1; cover by John Cassaday; June 2002

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Captain America, Vol. 5, #1; cover by Steve Epting; January 2005

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This last cover by Steve Epting encapsulates the recent multi-year run by writer Ed Brubaker, with its Jack Ryan/Jason Bourne super-spy vibe, which the new movie seems to be following. Have you seen the latest posters?

Here’s a sample, and since the poster is celebrating the IMAX release, it’s HUGE:

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We could talk all day about iconic movie posters, but not this day.

 

Let’s talk about teaching.  Namely, what is your iconic image of a teacher? 

 

I’ve done some research* into popular teacher portrayals in the Google Images search engine.  Since my background is in science (yes, I’m that much of a geek), I did a specific analysis of science teachers.

Here’s a sampling of what I found:

Image  Image  Image

 

That’s right.  According to Google, science teachers are white dudes with bad hair, poor eyesight, and lame taste in fashion–until hipsters start wearing lab coats, but then that would just be ironic fashion, not iconic.

 

Putting aside any ethnographic analysis of cultural imagery and stereotypical classroom depictions, here are the questions I want to ask:

 

What is your iconic teacher image?  What is your “look?”

 

Are you this kind of teacher?

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Or maybe this one?

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Or something else?

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I hope you’re not this last one.

 

Images often depend on one’s perspective, as revealed by this stunning photo collection of famous landmarks.

 

Consider how your students perceive you. What is your “iconic image” in their eyes?

 

One terrific way to gain perspective is video recording your teaching.  Recording technology is nearly ubiquitous these days, so use your favorite gadget.

 

No one needs to watch your recording except you. That alleviates any concerns about privacy, and more importantly, you can take an honest look at yourself.  If you don’t have time to record or review an entire class period, just focus on five minutes of a lesson. I guarantee you’ll learn something about your teaching and your students, giving you ideas for enhancing instruction.

 

Make it habit to record and watch yourself from time to time.  It’s one of the best ways you can get better.

 

Who knows?  Maybe your teaching will even reach “iconic status” (in a good way).

 

*Bergman, D.J. (2013). The portrayal of science teachers found in Google Images and implications  for science teacher education. Paper presentation at the International Meeting of the Association for Science Teacher Education. Charleston, SC: January 9-12.