The latest superhero movie teaser to hit the internet is that of Fantastic Four, a.k.a: FANT4STIC:
If a Fantastic Four movie sounds familiar, that’s because there have already been two big budget FF films since 2005.
Now watch the teaser of the 2015 version:
Quite the difference in tone, don’t you think?
But to me, that’s what makes iconic superheroes so special. Building off a core of archetypal characters and themes, different creators can tell stories through a variety of styles. (And it’s always fun to see fresh new takes on superpowers.)
Like parallel universes in comic books, a parallel application exists in the world of teaching. In order to reach students and inspire meaningful learning, an effective teacher applies his or her individual personality and talents to a framework of fundamental research and established methods.
So let’s talk about some essential elements of
effective fantastic teaching, using Marvel’s first family for inspiration (and images courtesy of artist Bruce Timm).
Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards)
1. Teachers must be smart. For those of us with normal IQ’s, we must do our best to study and develop rich understanding. This growing knowledge base should be limited to our particular subject(s), but all the arts and sciences, and–perhaps more importantly–research on how people learn and applicable teaching strategies.
2. Teachers must be flexible. You don’t have to wear a uniform made of unstable molecules (though it’d be cool to try), but you must be ready to bend, twist, and stretch if you want to stay sane.
Human Torch (Johnny Storm)
In addition to flexibility, fantastic teachers have a healthy sense of humor, much like the FF’s resident jokester. And figuratively speaking, teachers should be able to instantly “flame on” and fire up a jaded class into a group of enthusiastic learners.
Invisible Woman (Susan Storm-Richards)
Here’s where we get more profound. Teachers are often most effective when they stay out of the spotlight. Instead, they put the primary focus on learning and encourage students to take responsibility and leadership in the process.
A common motto used among educators is to relinquish the classroom role of “sage on the stage” and be a “guide on the side.” Sometimes, that guide is so good the students hardly notice his or her presence.
In many ways, Sue Storm has the most powerful abilities among her teammates. Not only can she turn invisible, she also can produce invisible force fields for both offensive and defensive purposes. Teachers must also do their best to protect their students and colleagues from all kinds of dangerous attacks – unseen or otherwise.
The Thing (Ben Grimm)
In addition to protecting students, fantastic teachers also need to protect themselves. Like the ever lovable, blue-eyed Thing, teachers must exhibit some thick skin. We have to withstand a daily barrage of gripes and wisecracks that rival Dr. Doom’s black magic blasts.
To use another metaphor, teachers should be judicious in deciding when “It’s clobberin’ time!”
Even fantastic teachers have students who occasionally act out worse than Mole Man’s Moloids. We can’t simply exile these misguided minions into the Negative Zone. But we can’t allow class clowns to ruin everyone else’s opportunity to learn, either.
It takes wisdom (sometimes a Reed Richards-level of intellect) to know how to squash misbehavior without squashing the student (emotionally, that is). It also requires a mix of courage and compassion. Even the best teachers aren’t perfect in determining when and how to manage, discipline, and/or overlook student actions and attitudes.
Nobody’s perfect. But we can strive to be fantastic. Use insight from the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” to help you get there.
No cosmic radiation required.