Who’s Your Hugh?


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 bloomingMultiverse.”)

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?”

From World’s Finest #1 (2022). Check it out!

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?

Silent Issues



Last time we examined the topic of “Word Balloons,” with the focusing on how teachers sound when they speak in classrooms.

dp failed me brain

Spoken in a classroom somewhere.


This time let’s go further by considering how teachers look during their interactions.  I’m not talking about how teachers dress, although that is an important issue and one we’ve already addressed (summary: keep it functional, simple, conservative, and non-CGI).

Teacher appearance, in the present case, refers to the outward actions and mannerisms displayed during classroom instruction.  These non-verbal behaviors include facial expressions and body language–the unspoken communication that accounts for up to 93% of all human interactions (Mehrabian, 1968).



With the topic of voice tone (word balloons), our inspiration was Marvel’s mouthy antihero Deadpool.  It’s only fitting that our model hero for unspoken behaviors is the mute commando Snake-Eyes of G.I.Joe fame (Hasbro’s toy-line featuring military super-heroes).

Despite being on opposite sides of the dialogue scale, Deadpool and Snake-Eyes share similar skills and accessories. Interestingly enough, G.I.Joe artist Robert Atkins recently shared a mock-up image depicting these two fan-favorite characters.



One of the most celebrated G.I.Joe stories is from Marvel’s original comic book series, issue #21: “Silent Interlude.” This tale is famous because it features absolutely zero dialogue or sound effects.

The adventure follows Snake-Eyes on a rescue mission to save Scarlett from Cobra and a castle of ninjas, including Storm Shadow.  (If that previous sentence doesn’t excite you, you’re not a child of the ’80s.  And you missed two major characters’ backstory revelation in the issue’s last few panels.)  

gijoe 21 cover


Below are a few sample pages. Notice how writer/artist Larry Hama conveys a range of motions AND emotions with expressions and movement.

Take a long, close look and enjoy the silence.

interlude 3.png

interlude 4

G.I. Joe Classics vol 03p021




This “silent issue” is not just a gimmick.  It became so legendary, in fact, that the format has been repeated a few times in the G.I.Joe comic series as well as other titles, including a Deadpool parody and even an entire month called “‘Nuff Said,” where all Marvel comic book titles featured silent issues with no dialogue or captions.

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Teachers typically don’t fight off ninjas hordes in silence, but we can foster powerful connections and teachable moments with unspoken behaviors.

What do these look like?  Here are some example “non-verbals:”

  • Moving back and forth among students.  Avoid prolonged, stagnate standing in one spot (especially the front).  Closer proximity garners more attentive students and decreases likelihood of off-task behaviors.

teacher at a student table


  • Open arms and hands inviting student input (as opposed to crossed arms, which convey defiance or disinterest).

open arms teacher 2


  • Counting on your fingers to show you expect answers and ideas from multiple students.

teacher counting on fingers.jpg


  • Nodding your head to acknowledge student contributions without using excessive praise.
  • Leaning toward students to express curiosity, but not looming over them in a dominating or threatening way.
  • Lowering your chin or cocking your head to one side to communicate concern and interest.

teacher eye contact


  • Sitting or kneeling down at the students’ level to show cooperation.

teacher at st level.jpg


  • Using appropriate lengths of eye contact with students, while avoiding prolonged and awkward stare downs.

teacher looking at student.jpg


  • Smiling!  If you enjoy teaching, show it.  (Again, avoid prolonged and awkward grins.)

teacher leaning smiling


For any teachers doubting the power of unspoken behaviors, posture, and expressions, I present the following challenge:  Watch a video of yourself teaching with the volume muted.  

Ask yourself what unspoken, but clearly presented messages you convey to your class.  How do you come across?  Are you respectful?  Are you confident and caring?  Are you happy to be there?

Look closer at your students and study their non-verbal behaviors too.  How much do they engage in the lesson?  How do they treat each other?  What can you learn from them?

students bored

How many students are engaged in learning?


Better yet, don’t wait for a video to notice these things.  As you teach, pause and survey the classroom to pick up on students’ mannerisms, posture, and expressions.  Take a moment and consider what you are communicating through these same behaviors.

Here are a few resources for further reading and ideas:

1. “Good body language improves classroom management” article by Teal Ruland, National Education Association

2. “Using effective body language to establish relationships with students” video by the Teaching Channel


Need more practice?  Try out your expressions and mannerisms in front of the mirror.


Keep practicing, buddy.


Whatever you do, work to express warm, welcoming messages through your body language.  Your students will soon respond in kind.  Whether spoken or unspoken, every interaction counts.


Word Balloons


The latest superhero flick is Deadpool, which is making news for its “hard” R-rating for humor and violence.

If you don’t know much about Marvel’s “Merc with a Mouth,” here is a fun tutorial courtesy of artist Ty Templeton.


The movie itself is doing great commercially and critically, even getting approval from Betty White herself.



I’ll bypass seeing the film in theaters, waiting for a toned down, broadcast-friendly version on TV.  (But from the sound of things, a cleaned-up edited version would last about 15 minutes.)

The “sound of things” is actually the topic of this blog post.  Specifically,

What is the sound of your voice?

We’ve talked before about the importance of what teachers say in the classroom (namely questions).  But it’s also important to consider how you say it.

What’s your tone of voice when you talk in class?  How loud?  How fast?  How much variety?

In comic books, characters speak in “word balloons” (or “speech bubbles”), and it’s fascinating to notice the unique techniques creators use to convey dialogue on the page.



Just like people, comic book heroes have unique voices, and letterers (the folks who draw word balloons) often use specific styles for particular characters.

For instance, Deadpool always speaks (and thinks) in yellow word balloons.  No one is sure what it’s supposed to sound like, aside from a mix of sarcasm and crazy.



Take a moment and consider what your words would look like if someone drew balloons around them.

Are you snarky to the point of annoying?  (Do you need to tone it down?)



Or maybe you’re more robotic, like the android Vision.  (Should you add more emotion?)

VisionBuckler1972 2


DC/Vertigo’s Sandman hero Dream (a.k.a. Morpheus) talks in wavy inverted speech bubbles.  (Are you putting your students to sleep?)



Or does your voice reflect the tenor of Ghost Rider, Marvel’s Spirit of Vengeance?  (To quote Educator Harry Wong, remember to stay “calm, real calm.”)

ghost rider balloon


Some teachers start quiet and docile, not maintaining healthy classroom boundaries.  And then when students get too far out of control, these teachers release a verbal attack like Marvel’s Inhumans hero Black Bolt.  (Deal with the small things sooner, so you don’t have to explode.)

bolt 1


Eric Wong at the Sequart Organization wrote a nifty article about the different ways comic books communicate sound.   As you examine these examples, think about the sounds in your classroom.  What is helpful?  What is hurtful or distracting?

Teachers should record their classroom instruction and interactions from time to time.  You don’t have to sit down and watch an entire lesson.  Just listen to a few minutes and notice what your students actually hear.

Acknowledge the fact that nobody likes the sound of their own voice.  (Blame science.)  But who cares?  Either out loud or in your head, ask yourself,

“What can I do to sound better?”  

Here are some ideas:

1. If your voice is monotone and flat, study television news anchors to learn about adding variety in pitch. (And drink more coffee.)

2. If you have a tendency of erupting, take a deep breath and stay calm (but firm).  (And eat more chocolate.)

3. If you have a snarky streak, save it for open mic night at the comedy club.  Students respect teachers who show them respect first.

solid word balloon


So whatever kind of “word balloons” you use in the classroom, make sure they fit the space and focus on learning.

word balloons