Job Juggler

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A recent Batman comic book story features Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler, donning the cape and cowl to be Batman.

Below is one page of the comic, and you can find a nifty preview of this scene here, so take a look to see how it plays out.

alfred as batman

 

Alfred’s temporary stint as the Caped Crusader prompted website Newsarama to make a top ten list, where they ranked different jobs performed by Batman’s butler.

alfred batman tas

 

Of course, “butler” was the #1 job.  But you’ll also find a range of occupations such as surgeon, actor, spy, super-villain, and more.

This list includes many jobs performed by your typical teacher.  Consider the ways in which teachers must act in the following roles:

alfred 1943 detective

 

 

Detective – Teachers may not solve crimes, but they must investigate, question, and examine evidence from their students’ behaviors and performances in order to make conclusions about learning and lesson planning.

 

 

 

Alfred-Pennyworth-is-Batman

 

Actor – Teaching is NOT theater, but there are certainly times when teachers must add some theatrics to catch their students’ interest and elevate the content.

 

 

 

alfred doctor

 

Surgeon – Let’s go with Doctor here to be more general.  There’s a reason teachers have to annually renew training on how to deal with blood-born pathogens. Schools have nurses, but teachers often deal with students’ minor injuries on the front lines. Just ask any teacher with playground duty.

 

alfred hugging

 

 

Father – Alfred has been a “father figure” to numerous heroes.  How many teachers have been accidentally called “dad” or “mom” by their students?  It’s universally subconscious.

 

 

 

I would add even more jobs to Newsarama’s list for Alfred, and argue that teachers also juggle these jobs during a typical school year.

alfred tailor

 

Tailor – To put it figuratively, teachers must tailor their lessons to fit students’ needs and standards requirements.

 

alfred helping figure out

 

 

Assistant Problem Solver – Alfred has been Batman’s trusty assistant when it comes to numerous bat-cave experiments and analyses.  Likewise, teachers “facilitate” learning when they help students think through problems and challenges.

 

 

alfred sparring partner

 

Sparring Partner – Sometimes the role of assistant includes acting as an antagonist.  Like Alfred (seen here with a young Bruce Wayne), teachers can provide a safe avenue for students to “wrestle with ideas” and face opposition.

 

 

alfred ding dong

 

Comic Relief – Like fighting crime, learning is an endless venture.  In addition to all of the jobs needed above, an effective bat-butler/teacher can share a sense of humor to reduce stress and lighten the mood.

 

 

What other roles does Alfred perform for Bruce Wayne/Batman?

What about teachers with their students?  How many different jobs do you juggle?

 

alfred mentor

 

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Question(s) & Answer

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Question_34

One comic book character who is prime for a screen adaptation is DC’s The Question.  In fact, the folks at  WhatCulture.com list The Question as one of their “10 Obscure Superheroes That Badly Need a Movie Treatment.”

A movie may work fine, but an ongoing Question TV Series would be a perfect fit, featuring a street-level noir hero with regular crimes and conspiracies to solve. If you want to see The Question in animated action, you can find some highly regarded appearances in the Justice League Unlimited series.

You can also find a nifty short YouTube documentary on “Who is the Question?” right here.  The most iconic version is Vic Sage, although more recently the moniker (and mask) was taken over by Renee Montoya, best known as a detective in the Gotham City Police Department.  [A live TV version of Det. Montoya has appeared in Fox’s Gotham series.  No sign of any Question(s), though.]

250px-Reneequestion

In case you’re wondering, there IS a superhero known as The Answer in comic books.  You can read more about The Answer here and here.  Judging from his appearance, I’d say a more appropriate name is The Exclamation Point or The Interjection!

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In teaching, we know that “Questions are the Answer.”  Often, what makes or breaks a lesson is how the teacher interacts with students during the activity.

Rather than just talking at students, teachers must ask questions throughout each lesson.  Questions and similar prompts are effective ways to encourage thoughtful reflection, promote engaged discussion, monitor student thinking, and more.

Unfortunately, research has found that a vast majority (70-80%) of questions asked by teachers require nothing more from students than reciting facts or guessing simple answers (Gall, 1984; Watson & Young, 1986; Bergman & Morphew, 2014).

So the question is this:  What kind of questions do you ask?  

Challenge yourself to challenge students by habitually asking  questions that require high-level thinking, such as those skills classified in Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives:  Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation (Bloom, 1956).

How do you begin?  Here are a few resources I’ve recently come across that may be a good start:

– From Edutopia: “5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students”

– From The Huffington Post*“25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How Was School Today?’ Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?'”

*This second resource is more for parents, but teachers can gain ideas from the example questions for encouraging conversation.

The goal is to get kids thinking, reflecting, and sharing so you and their classmates can also think, reflect, and share ideas.

I’m glad there are two Questions running around in comic books. It reminds us that teachers need to use multiple questions in our interactions with students.  One question is often not enough.

Like Batman and his utility belt, you should have an entire arsenal of prompts and queries at your ready, posing the right one at the right time.

Batman utility belt

I don’t own a utility belt, but I do keep a small index card in my pocket with question stems such as “In what ways . . .?”  “For what reasons . . .?”  “How might you . . .?” and many more.  Whenever I’m stumped for a good question, I can check my list to keep the conversation going.  And like Batman with his belt, you should continuously update and improve your questioning strategies.

Unlike the hero The Question, however, you will want to add engaging facial expressions.  Smile a little.  Make appropriate eye contact.  And talk in a welcoming tone of voice.

question image

Not the face you want to see in a classroom.

The Question wants to hide an identity and frighten bad guys.  Teachers, on the other hand, need to be personable and supportive of students.  Your questions and interactions, when used effectively, are an important part of this equation.

Speaking of which, there is no mainstream superhero called The Equation.  Get on it, math teachers!