It wasn’t that long ago that we talked about Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman (and how teachers also need a “Hugh”).
Now we’re back with another teacher tip from everyone’s favorite Australian nice guy actor playing everyone’s favorite Canadian grumpy mutant hero.
(Quite the difference in personality there. I guess that’s why they call it “acting.”)
Let’s talk about one more difference between Hugh Jackman and Wolverine.
In the comics, Wolverine is stocky and short, with a height of 5′ 3″. In reality, Hugh Jackman is 6′ 2”.
It doesn’t take a math teacher to quickly figure out that’s a difference of 11 inches–almost one whole foot in length. (Or 27.94 centimeters for those of you using the metric system–Canadians and Australians alike.)
So how did a tall actor first win the part of Wolverine?
(Remember, before Hugh Jackman got this role for the first X-Men movie, he was a relatively unknown actor. Check out this neat time capsule web announcement announcing–and decrying–the official casting waaaaaaaaaaay back in 1999.)
Recently, CNN’s Chris Wallace asked the actor this same question (or very similar, at least). Zip ahead to the 0:45 mark for the question and answer:
In his explanation, Hugh Jackman also gives an example of his behavior. It may look goofy to “stoop,” but it got him the part! (His thespian skills probably helped, too.)
A while back, I read the following sentence in a reflection paper by one of my future science teachers:
“As an educator, I need to remember that my first priority is to the student. I need to STOOP and listen.”
There was a typo. She meant “STOP and listen.”
Still, my first reaction was to write a snarky response like, “If you teach elementary kids, you certainly will need to stoop!” 🙂
The more I think of it, though, sometimes teachers DO need to STOOP. Not only when they stop and listen, but often when they interact with students. And not just with younger kids, but with all ages and grade levels.
There’s a whole bunch of research on “nonverbal behaviors,” those unspoken actions and mannerisms that occur during human interactions. Teachers can gain a lot of insight and application when they focus on such behaviors in the classroom.
Sure, what teachers say during lessons is vital, such as engaging questions and responses that encourage further discussion and reflection.
But stop and think about what you actually look like when you teach. How is your eye contact? Your facial expressions? Hand gestures? Mannerisms and more?
And where are you compared to your students? The fancy name for this is “PROXIMITY.”
Proximity is not just the front of the classroom versus the back, or in between student desks (although such movement is important for many reasons).
Proximity also includes the posture and level at which you interact with students. Check out this quote from Sean Neill and Chris Caswell, authors of the book, Body Language for Competent Teachers:
“Leaning towards another person, whether sitting or standing, is an ‘intention movement;’ your intention, if you actually moved, would be to get closer to them . . . . Leaning away sends the opposite signal. Leaning over someone, or being higher than them, is dominant and potentially threatening because if you actually wanted to attack someone you could launch your attack better from above. Sitting or kneeling down to someone, at or below their level, is correspondingly non-threatening” (p. 11)
So I guess we now know why Wolverine is always hunched over, ready to strike.
And we also know why it’s important for teachers to STOOP. Not always, but definitely when working with students in small groups or one-on-one. Leaning and learning–literally at “their level”–conveys a collaborative spirit. We’re in this together to grow and get better!
And who knows? Maybe all this learning will help us become “the best there is at what we do.”
Unlike Wolverine, however, what teachers do–learning and teaching–is VERY nice!