25% off!

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The number 25 is very important. All kinds of great things happen in the 25th issue of a comic book.

In Avengers #25, The Avengers fight Dr. Doom. In Iron Man #25, Iron Man fights Namor the Sub-Mariner. And in Action Comics #25, Superman fights . . . uh, “Amnesiac Robbers.”

And now 25 makes another grand appearance.

For a limited time, you can PRE-ORDER my new book, Teaching Is for Superheroes!, at Barnes & Noble with a 25% off discount!

Use the code PREORDER25 at B&N’s website. You can find my book at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/teaching-is-for-superheroes-daniel-bergman/1142495826?ean=9781394153732.

Keep in mind, this is a limited time discount, expiring January 28, 2023 at 2:29am (exclusions apply).

After that, this discount will be forgotten, like Superman’s Amnesiac Robbers.

Top Lists

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At the end of every year, you’ll find a smattering of “Top Ten” or “Best of . . .” lists. Do a quick web search and you’ll discover all kinds of countdowns for 2022.

Better yet, we’ve done some reading ourselves and provided a few hyperlinks, including Comic Book rankings by people at Polygon, Den of Geek, and Entertainment Weekly.

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!

Places like Education Week and Education Next highlight the most-read blog posts and articles in 2022. A lot of these deal with policy and trends in curriculum, as opposed to direct classroom practice. Still, it’s good to stay up to date with the latest. Keeping current is even more vital with RESEARCH in teaching and learning, as featured in Edutopia’s “10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2022.”

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?

Talking Teachers and Superheroes

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No time to read today?

Then LISTEN to a new podcast episode I recorded with Jeff Bradbury on his show, “Ask the Tech Coach.”

Click HERE for the podcast and show notes, and check out the cool graphic below!

In addition to “teacher talk,” listen for answers to life’s big questions like . . .

Who is the best Batman?

Hint: He’s in the top row.

Coke or Pepsi?

Or is there a third choice?

Cobra Commander vs. Destro?

Both are shiny. But who makes the better teacher?

And MORE geeky fun!

(Plus teacher stuff, too.)

Find more resources at the TeacherCast network: https://www.teachercast.net/

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.

Too Old?

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Happy =belated= Bat-Day!

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This year was special not only because you could find bat-signals around various cities, but also because 2019 is the 80th anniversary of Batman!

Batman’s 80th birthday is also timely given recent news casting the upcoming movie’s Caped Crusader.

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That’s right. Robert Pattinson agreed 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:

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Some fans aren’t happy about Robert Pattinson’s casting, but that’s nothing new. It seems every Batman casting has its detractors, but things usually simmer down after a while. 

Interestingly, another actor’s name came up in the recent Batman casting.

Milo Ventimiglia, the gone-but-never-forgotten hunky dad Jack from NBC’s This is Us, had been interested in donning the cape and cowl. But at 42, he was considered “too old” for the part.

(Author’s Note #1: Robert Pattinson is currently 33.)

(Author’s Note #2: No Batman role in my future, either.)

For now, let’s avoid any discussion of “age discrimination” and turn our attention to TEACHING.

Can you get TOO OLD to teach?

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Let’s first look at the average teacher today. Below is a summary from a U.S. Department of Education study in 2017:

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Here is another summary of average teacher ages across the entire globe:

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How do you compare to these numbers?

Are you “above” or “below” average?

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.

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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:

Ways to Reclaim Your Joy in Teaching” (Edutopia)

The Teacher Self-Care Conference and The Educator’s Room’s Self-Care Resources

A Never-ending Quest

My favorite “old Batman” story is the Batman Beyond animated series, which features an elderly Bruce Wayne still fighting crime by mentoring a new futuristic (non)Caped Crusader:

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Of course if you want to know how old Batman really is, check out this meticulously researched article here.

It seems Batman would be too old to play himself in movies.

But no one is too old to learn or teach.

It doesn’t matter if you are

70 years old,

85 years old,

91 years old,

100 years old,

or even 102 years old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Forward

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How far do you plan ahead?

Later this month – February 28, 2109, to be exact – a book is coming out that includes a chapter by Yours Truly. (Shameless plug alert!)

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In the previous post, I shared an overview of this book chapter featuring teaching approaches of the Flash (Wally West) and Max Mercury, and the impact on their student Impulse. For now, though, let’s turn out attention to time travel.

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Bart Allen (Impulse) is a 30th century teen transported to late 20th century America. The featured Flash and Impulse comic book stories in my book chapter were published in the mid 1990s. But this isn’t the kind of time travel I want to discuss.

Let’s look at the timeline of academic publication, using my Flash book chapter:

  • April 2017 – I submitted proposal for book chapter.
  • July 2017 – Proposal accepted.
  • November 2017 – Chapter manuscript submitted.
  • February 2019 – Book published.

Altogether, the process from proposal to publication is nearly TWO YEARS. And this isn’t even counting the original call for submissions, formulating my idea, doing the research (reading, looking up, reading, collecting data, reading, analyzing data, etc.), as well as the actual WRITING of the 25+ page first draft.

Two years from proposal to publication is actually about typical for most printed books. (That’s why it’s tricky for a writer to chase trends; by the time anything gets published there’s a new fad taking the world by storm.)

But to be honest, I had to stop and look up some of the above dates in my records. If you had asked me before, I probably would’ve thought the time period was much quicker. Time flies when you’re having fun (i.e. doing scholarly research with comic books).

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Teachers also experience interesting time travel in their classroom work. And like publishing, the educational process can stretch along with many delays. A recent article on Edutopia talks about the long-term impact of teaching. Here is how it summarizes the featured research:

Teachers who help students improve noncognitive skills such as self-regulation raise their grades and likelihood of graduating from high school more than teachers who help them improve their standardized test scores do.

Later, the article addresses the predicament: Standardized tests don’t typically measure long-term teacher impact on things like self-regulation and other “noncognitive skills.”

Countless times, teachers reiterate that if something is important, you have to test it. Using reverse logic, we often assume that only the important things are on tests.

We can’t overlook those things that may be more difficult to assess or standardize. In the face of regular evaluation reports, teachers must keep the far future in view.

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I would argue that these two outcomes – short-term test scores, long-term impact – are not mutually exclusive. Teachers can promote both at the same time, intertwined together.

Take publishing, for our ongoing analogy.

While this Flash book chapter has been moving toward publication, I’ve been busy working on other projects. Journal articles and conference presentations have faster turnaround times, and I’ve done both in the past few years.

Likewise, I have a new chapter in progress for the next “Ages of . . .” book. This one is about Marvel’s Black Panther.

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My chapter deals with T’Challa’s demonstration of 21st Century Skills in defending Wakanda from the alien Skrulls’ Secret Invasion. If that sentence doesn’t excite you, maybe these comic book panels will . . .

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So far, here is the timeline of my chapter:

  • May 2018 – Submitted chapter proposal.
  • August 2018 – Proposal accepted.
  • January 2019 – Submitted chapter manuscript.
  • ??? – Publication???

Right now, I’m awaiting feedback and requests for revisions from the editor. After that should be official news of acceptance and publication. But I’m not holding my breath. It’ll happen eventually.

In the meantime, there are always more opportunities to learn, write, research, and share. And enjoy the future possibilities!

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Flashy Teachers

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We’ve been a little light on blog posts lately, but for good reasons!

Over the past year, I’ve been busy writing a few other projects. The first one is coming out in February 2019:

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My contribution to this book is only one chapter – “Impulsive Students, Speedster Teachers, and Education in the 1990s” – and here’s a preview:

In 1994, DC Comics presented a potential poster child for 1990s adolescence: Bart Allen, a.k.a. Impulse—a time-displaced teen speedster from the future with a short attention span, entertainment-first obsession, disregard for adult instruction, and a habit of leaping-before-looking. This chapter focuses on mentors Impulse encounters along the way—namely Wally West and Max Mercury.

To frame my analysis of Bart’s teachers, I applied the 1998 text Approaches to Teaching by Fenstermacher and Soltis.  And, of course, I used content from over two dozen different comic books. Here are a few examples:

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Wally West (The Flash) is similar to an “executive teacher,” hastening with curriculum, outcome-oriented lessons, and direct instruction for his student Bart.  Taken too far, this teaching can overwhelm the student, even one with super-speed. And the results can backfire . . .

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In contrast to Wally, Max Mercury is more like a “therapist teacher,” also called a “fostering” or “facilitator” teacher by Fenstermacher and Soltis.  But I doubt the authors envisioned a “therapist teacher” doing things like these . . .

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As a “therapist teacher,” Max focuses his attention not only on Bart’s skills, but also on the teenager’s personal development — making friends, making decisions, experiencing effects of relationships and choices. Cultivating personal development means not always giving students an answer, even when they beg for it at super-speed:

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Other times, a therapist teacher simply tells the student the honest truth, helping them refocus on the important goals:

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What kind of teacher are you most like? Both approaches have strengths, some more advantageous in one situation or another.

Learn more when the book comes out February 2019.  You can find it HERE and HERE.

In the meantime, we’ll revisit some of these topics here on this blog – hopefully sooner rather than later!

 

Batman and/or Robin

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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.”

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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.

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The neat thing about Robin is that there are multiple versions. Each individual has his or her own personality, backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and more.

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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 Todaarticle, “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.”

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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.)

Here’s a neat article at WeAreTeachers.com about “How to be (or find) a truly great teaching mentor,” and it includes a section titled “How to make the most of your mentor,” including the following strategies:

“Ask specific questions . . . The more specific your questions, the more helpful your mentor can be.”

“Know when to say ‘I don’t know’ . . . The point of mentoring is to improve, so resist the temptation to say everything is fine when it’s not.”

 

Teachers, are you more Batman or more Robin at this point in your career?

Online quizzes are everywhere, and you can find an “Are you Batman or Robin?” quiz right here to find that answer.

Even better, here’s a “What kind of educator are you?” quiz (from ASCD), which includes 3 book recommendations based on your responses.

Full disclosure: I took both quizzes and found out I’m “The Nurturing Nightwing.”

Learn more about yourself and reflect on your profession, personality, and current position. Then go out and be a great teammate, sidekick, teacher, and superhero.