Flash Forward

Standard

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!)

agesofflashcover

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.

Impulse_(Bart_Allen)

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).

Impulse20

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.

directions

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.

bp_battle

 

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 . . .

bpSuperSrull_40

 

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!

impulse1-feature

D-List to A-List

Standard

I stole borrowed this blog title from a recent countdown article by Brian Conin and the folks at Comic Book Resources, named “15 D-List Superheroes Who Went A-List.”

For the uninitiated, “A-List” heroes are big name characters known across the globe:  Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spider-Man, and so on.  In the past decade, Iron Man joined this group due to Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic portrayal in the Marvel movies.  (Before then, people considered Iron Man more of a “B-List” hero.)

 

“D-List” heroes fall much further down the rankings.  These are the obscure, silly, and often forgotten characters no one really cares about.  Only super fans know about these heroes, including where and when they appear in comic books and other media.

Movies and television, however, have done an amazing job of bumping up the status of many lesser-known characters.  Take a look at CBR’s list to find 15 heroes you probably never heard of before they appeared in film or TV.

Better yet, watch the recently released trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (coming Summer 2017!) to see FIVE of these former D-listers in action:

 

That new telepathic character adorning antennae near the end is Mantis, and I’m willing to bet she’ll become another D-list-to-A-list hero in the upcoming year.

 

The whole letter-grade system (A, B, C, D, etc.) is at the front of my mind this time of year, near the end of a semester.

This is when many teachers spend overtime scoring tests, reading final papers, perusing projects, and altogether compiling grades. This is also when numerous students suddenly become obsessed over every single grade for every single assignment.  (For some reason, too many students don’t seem to care until the last minute.)

Unfortunately, letter grades can easily get too much focus in place of more important outcomes.

letter_grades_debate-e1440012924103

 

Grading has many critics, such as Alfie Kohn, who calls grades “relics of a less-enlightened age” and cites research about their negative impact on student learning and motivation.  You can read more in the NEA Today article, “Are Letter Grades Failing Our Students?” and learn about alternative ideas used in different states and districts.

One of my favorite stories is of the Central Park East elementary school, known for its progressive “whole child” approach to education in inner city Harlem.  In one of her books (The Power of Their Ideas, I believe), former CPE principal Deborah Meier describes how they removed their A-B-C grading system in favor of “Satisfactory” and “Unsatisfactory”-type ratings.  Soon, however, they added an “Advanced”-level designation.  Then they decided to include a +/- system to further delineate student performance.

In other words, they went from A-B-C-D to A-S-U, plusses and minuses and all.

grade_marks

 

I’m not saying grades are good or bad, but they certainly have become entrenched in most educational systems.  The key is to focus on learning and growth, with grades providing one type of data to guide teacher decisions and communication.  Also, it’s important to remember the differences between “assessment” and “evaluation.”

evaluation-vs-assessment-image

 

I highly recommend reading Thomas Guskey’s article “Making the Grade: What Benefits Students?” in the ASCD’s journal Educational Leadership.  You will find a useful section at the end that provides a historical summary of grading practices and research through the years.

Most importantly, teachers can consider how to reach and teach ALL of their students, regardless of past academic performance.  With the diverse range of strengths and weaknesses in a given classroom, one’s definition of success can differ greatly.  Find ways to engage each student, equipping them for further achievement and advancement.

 

success-look-like

 

Consider how various superheroes have changed from being jokes, relics, or “one-offs” into major players or even champions of their universes (and publishers).  In many cases, this transformation did not occur just because of a Hollywood appearance.  It also takes someone (or someones) to see potential in a character and give him or her the attention they deserve.  Often, it includes a unique perspective and innovative approach.

The same goes for students in our schools.  Not everyone is a Superman.  But they could be a Star Lord.

 

Who knows?  Maybe the next Squirrel Girl is sitting in your very classroom.

squirrelgirl

 

 

Academy, Asylum, or . . . ?

Standard

It’s Back-to-School time, and hopefully everyone is off to a terrific start, implementing new district policies and applying Harry and Rosemary Wong’s wisdom about “the first days of school.” (Routines and procedures, practice, practice, practice.)

The-First-Days-of-School-9780976423317

Batman is back in the news too, mainly the upcoming Ben Affleck movie version with Superman a la Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns miniseries (e.g. short pointy ears). I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about that topic and teaching connections in the future (e.g. short pointy ears).

bat comparison

Comparison courtesy of artist Dean Trippe @deantrippe

In the near future, a bunch of new Batman-related comics are coming out. Namely, two series start this fall, as announced by Entertainment Weekly.

One title is Arkham Manor, in which Bruce Wayne (Batman’s nice face) decides to donate his Wayne Manor to house Gotham City’s criminally insane. The mansion that’s known for masking the underground Batcave has now become the new location for Arkham Asylum. There goes the neighborhood.

Arkham Manor     Gotham Academy
 

Another Bat-title from DC—Gotham Academy—focuses on the city’s private school for rich kids.  Plaid skirt uniforms and everything.

(Side note: I’m curious about the depiction of Gotham’s public schools.  If you are curious as well, the best we can do is watch the movie Dangerous Minds and assume that instead of being a former marine, Michelle Pfieffer’s character is Selena Kyle after giving up the Catwoman costume in Batman Returns. It almost works!)

As for the comics, we’ll see what happens as both series progress in the months to come. The reason I bring them up here is to encourage all of us teachers to consider our school environment.

Academy?

Does your school building feel like an academy? It’s a fancy word, coming from the Greek “grove of Akademos,” where Plato did his teaching. Good company, no? People nowadays use the term “academy” to refer to a special institution for scholarship or for the advancement of the arts or science. 

You don’t have to teach in a special institution to advance the ideas of scholarship and appreciation for culture. Wherever and whatever you teach, consider how you can promote an “academic” attitude in your students. I’m not talking about being a snob or out of touch with reality. But we can still create an environment where learning is looked upon as a noble endeavor and great adventure.

Sometimes our schools have too much adventure, though, and may even feel like an insane asylum.

Asylum?

Does anyone in your school drink from a mug like this?  

crazy mug

Or post this sign in their classroom or office?

crazy sign

 

Schools can often feel like a facility for the mentally unstable. Beyond the humor, though, there is some truth to that notion. Think about our students’ mental, emotional, and physical states. Most of them are, in fact, a little unstable. A little “shaky,” so to speak. They should be. They’re still growing up.

And that’s why we teach them. During a school year, teachers introduce students to hundreds of ideas and skills. Our students should investigate, reflect, and practice the content, all the while strengthening (and stabilizing) their foundations—intellectually, emotionally, and more. This learning process is often challenging and frustrating, even destabilizing at times, and ultimately rewarding.

Learning can create a sense of vulnerability, and students need a safe place to learn—no matter what kind of school or classroom. 

We looked at the origin of the word “academy,” so let’s do the same for asylum. Although often associated with housing the mentally ill, the word “asylum” comes from the Latin word for “sanctuary,” a “safe or secure place.”

We can never protect kids from every unsafe event or bad influence, but we can all do our part. None of us can do it alone. Heck, even Batman has the Justice League. (And Alfred. And several Robins. And Nightwing. And the Gotham City Police Department. And the Outsiders. And Batman Incorporated. And Batmen of All Nations. And Ace the Bat-Hound.)

justiceleague

 

Fight the good fight with your trusted colleagues, mentors, and friends. (And pets.)  You get to pick who wears the cape.

Good luck in the coming year in whatever classroom you teach. Wherever you are, it can be both an academy and an asylum for your students. And so much more.

 

What is free?

Standard

Image

In honor of Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 3, 2014, consider the following:

“Only the educated are free.”

This nugget of wisdom comes from the philosopher Epictetus.

Image

“Epictetus” would make for a cool superhero name.  And the guy did have some heroic life experiences, if you’re curious.

 

You may find free comics one day of the year, but learning is free EVERY day!

 

UPDATE:

Free Comic Book Day occurs the weekend before Teacher Appreciation Week.  Coincidence?

You can learn more about the celebration and how/why to appreciate teachers (if you need the help) in some of the links below:

National PTA

National Education Association

Edutopia (which includes a useful essay on helping non-teachers understand what teachers do, encapsulated by the image below)

edu-shiva-teacher-multitask-2-460x345