25% Redux!

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Barnes & Noble is back at it – offering 25% off all online pre-order books, including Teaching Is for Superheroes!

Use the code “PREORDER25” – valid until April 29, 2023 at 2:29am ET (exclusions apply). Sorry Luddites, but this code can only be used on B&N’s website.

Here is a link to the book’s product page: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/teaching-is-for-superheroes-daniel-bergman/1142495826?ean=9781394153732

Please SHARE with your fellow fans of teaching and superheroes!

And don’t forget to sign up for FREE RESOURCES when you pre-order the book. Go to www.teachingisforsuperheroes.com and click on PRE-ORDERS to learn more!

When you get that done, come back here and check out three more comic books with awesome #25 issues!

Want MORE? Revisit Part One of this #25/25% mash-up celebration here!

T-Minus 50!

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Mark your calendars! The release date of Teaching Is for Superheroes! is only FIFTY DAYS away!

May 31, 2023!!!*

*Let’s hope our supply of exclamation points lasts that long!

Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

You can do that all over the internet via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and Wiley! (Hooray for technology!)

Plus, look for news about pre-order GIVEAWAYS on social media!

Follow, “Like” and Share the official Facebook page, Twitter, and my burgeoning Instagram (but only if you’re cool).

You can also go to the official website www.TeachingIsForSuperheroes.com – to learn more!

And of course, you can always READ this very blog for more teasers, news, and celebrations of teachers and/or superheroes.

For example, to celebrate 50 days left, here are five of my all-time favorite comic book #50 issues!

Don’t worry; we won’t do this for the next 49 days . . . although it is tempting. Gotta bottle up those exclamation points!

Drat! Somebody put that cap back on!

Know Thy Enemy

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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has been out in theaters for a while – and the film is HUGE fun!

It’s no secret that the “big bad” villain in the movie is Kang the Conqueror, but we won’t say anything more about his motivations or machinations.

(That would be a “spoiler.”)

Still, a lot has been said already about Kang (and actor Jonathan Majors), with his introduction as the next major antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’re talking Thanos-level malevolence here.

Both look great in purple, too!

Understandably, people want to chat about Kang the Conqueror–his backstory in the comics, potential connections to MCU shows and films, his powers and motivations, and much more. But we won’t dive too deeply here, to avoid any spoiler territory. (If you’re curious, click on any of the links in this paragraph and speculate away.)

All this talk about the next new villain got me thinking about teaching. If teachers are like superheroes, then who plays the “villain” role?

Who is YOUR archenemy?

Or at the least, who’s your rival?

Or maybe just someone who bugs you. Whether they know it or not, sometimes this person drives you nuts.

To help reflect on educational antagonists, look at classic superhero/villain pairings.

Sometimes they are complete opposites. Superman is super-strong and a “boy scout.” Lex Luthor is super-smart and a malicious “man-child.” Or contrast the stoic, calculating Batman with the crazy, maniacal Joker.

Archenemies can also be too much alike. Their mutual strengths create immediate conflict. Think of Wolverine and Sabretooth, both with claws, feral fighting skills, and healing factors. Or consider the intellectual enmity between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom.

Another source of friction is a fundamental difference in ideology. Professor X seeks peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans, whereas Magneto prefers violent uprising and mutant dominance, no matter the cost. Captain America and Red Skull epitomize the Allies vs. Axis sides of World War II.

Remember, these examples are fiction. Superhero/villain matchups are mere illustrations for the types of conflict that can occur between two real people. I sincerely hope any opposition in schools is much less vindictive and destructive.

As teachers, we should use moments of disagreement as opportunities to model healthy communication and compromise. Remember, your students are watching!

Ideally, we can seek “win-win” solutions.

That said, something (or someone) that is unethical or illegal should NOT win.

I remember a high school principal explaining one experience he had where “win-win” was not a viable option. Their school building was facing increased pressure and influence from violent gang activity. This principal shared how their school staff, students, families, and community banded together to find a “win-lose” solution: they were going to win; the gangs were going to lose (and leave).

Hopefully, the day-to-day conflicts and friction teachers experience are not as dire. And in any case, we can focus on productive (and creative) outcomes, with student learning and growth as the ultimate goal.

Here are just two resources for working with others (including those you can’t stand):

-Enneagram Personality Types and Relationships

-Enneagram Types at Work

Workplace Triggers based on Enneagram Type

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand (book)

-Dr. Rick Brinkman: The Top 10 Difficult People (video)

-“Ten most unwanted list” and Summary from What You Will Learn (podcast/blog)

Imagine what would happen if some of our superhero/villain pairs paused to review these materials. Maybe they could even sit down and work out their differences.

Or maybe not.

But what about YOU?

And who exactly is a teacher’s REAL archenemy? Moreover, how do we “fight” them?

If you want the actual answer and action steps, check out Chapter 8 in my book – Teaching Is for Superheroes!

(That’s called a “teaser.”)

Stoop Like Hugh

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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!” 🙂

(I didn’t.)

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.”

Wolverine (Mr. Logan) demonstrating why teachers should NOT stay at the front of classrooms, especially with their back turned to students.

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!

Find more SUPER-teaching resources and strategies HERE or HERE!

Top Lists

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At the end of every year, you’ll find a smattering of “Top Ten” or “Best of . . .” lists. Do a quick web search and you’ll discover all kinds of countdowns for 2022.

Better yet, we’ve done some reading ourselves and provided a few hyperlinks, including Comic Book rankings by people at Polygon, Den of Geek, and Entertainment Weekly.

My favorite of 2022 was the new Batman/Superman: World’s Finest” series by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain. It’s a fresh take on the old-fashioned DC team-up title. The art is dynamic and colorful, with big action mixing up characters both well-known and unknown.

Comics aren’t just full of superheroes, of course, as you’ll notice many different kinds of tales in these “Best” Comic Books.

For more capes and cowls, you can also find “Top” lists ranking favorite superhero television series, such as one by the folks at IGN.

Again, my two-cents’ worth is that Ms. Marvel was the best choice in a very robust slate of superhero TV in 2022.

I’ve already talked about Ms. Marvel in a previous post. Simply put, it’s another fun teen title in the tone of Spider-Man.

Like Spidey, Ms. Marvel begins with our hero learning about their powers and living among family and friends. But “trial-and-error” adventures at the street level soon explode into a globe-hopping (and time-traveling) quest. Good stuff!

In addition to TV and Comics, there are even “Top” lists for Teachers!

Places like Education Week and Education Next highlight the most-read blog posts and articles in 2022. A lot of these deal with policy and trends in curriculum, as opposed to direct classroom practice. Still, it’s good to stay up to date with the latest. Keeping current is even more vital with RESEARCH in teaching and learning, as featured in Edutopia’s “10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2022.”

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from their Top Ten:

#1 THERE’S NO CONFLICT BETWEEN RELATIONSHIPS AND RIGOR

“The researchers found that the most effective teachers build their classrooms by getting to know their students, being approachable, and showing that they enjoy the work—and then deftly translate emotional capital into academic capital.”

#10. AN AUTHORITATIVE STUDY OF TWO HIGH-IMPACT LEARNING STRATEGIES

“In the review, researchers explain that students who prefer techniques like reading and rereading material in intense cram sessions are bound to fail. Instead, students should think of learning as a kind of ‘fitness routine’ during which they practice recalling the material from memory and space out their learning sessions over time.”

Similar to “Top” rankings for the previous year, you’ll also find “Most Anticipated” lists previewing upcoming movies, comic books, and more.

Just as teachers can gain insight from reviewing the “best” of the past, they can also find inspiration in previewing the future.

What are you anticipating most in the next year? (Maybe a new book?)

Better yet, how can you help your students look forward to the future?

Who’s Your Hugh?

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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?

Marvel at the Future . . . AND Past

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Apologies for using the “Marvelous” pun twice in a row, but in this case it’s doubly appropriate.

Not only are we talking about another Marvel superhero; we’re talking about the superhero, Ms. Marvel.

Yes, the Disney+ series has been out for a while, and we’re already in the middle of the new She-Hulk series. We’ll get to that one someday.

Still, we have our reasons for playing “catch-up.” (Busy with an EXCITING project. More on that . . . soon . . .) Plus, what better time to explore themes from the Ms. Marvel show than our current “back-to-school” season?

Specifically, let’s talk about the past, present, and future. All three are key elements in the show, especially in how they pertain to our teenage heroine and her friends.

The very first trailer for Ms. Marvel features a scene in which Kamala meets with her high school guidance counselor. Check out their conference in the first 45 seconds or so:

“Conference” is probably not the correct word. Kamala doesn’t listen to Mr. Wilson as much as she daydreams and can’t wait to escape.

Don’t blame Mr. Wilson. It’s his job to not only be the hip GC, but also help students plan for their future. He does the same with Kamala’s friend Bruno later in the series, sharing news of Bruno’s acceptance into Caltech.

In both cases, Kamala and Bruno are initially ambivalent about looking ahead to tomorrow. That’s because they each have a lot going on in the present – hobbies, jobs, social lives, superpowers, etc.

As teachers, we have to consider the current ups and downs of our students at all times. And we must help them connect their present choices and actions to future dreams, as well as the past.

In the book Teaching as Decision Making (Sparks-Langer et al., 2004), the authors share an analogy that teaching is like building bridges. We start with students on one end, and connect them to content comprehension on the other.

Courtesy of Sparks-Langer et al. (2004), who borrowed it from Starko et al. (2003). It’s a bridge!

It’s a lot more complicated, of course, involving unique characteristics and circumstances, personal beliefs and pedagogy, and relationships. I’d argue this last element – relationships – is the most important, since teaching and learning involves interpersonal connections, communication, and collaboration. These relationships play out among all sorts of individuals, not just those in the classroom.

One of the strongest parts of the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series is attention to Kamala’s family and cultural background. It’s something the show has in common with the original comic book, along with a memorable cast.

The Ms. Marvel television show even takes us on a literal trip across time and space to explore Kamala’s past. Viewers learn about real historical events, and the repercussions still felt today.

As an added bonus, the very end of the show teases a potential connection to even MORE superheroes, when Bruno drops the term “mutation” in explaining Kamala’s powers. Will we see more mutants in the future?

“X” marks the spot . . . sometime soon?

Whether it be a massive geopolitical movement or an individual personal change, everybody has previous experiences and perspectives that shape their lives.

Teachers can truly help students plan their future steps when we seek to understand their history. That’s how we build bridges that last.

Let’s start right now.

Further Reading and Resources:

Sparks-Langer, G.M., Starko, A.J., Pasch, M., Burke, W., Moody, C.D., & Gardner, T.G. (2004). Teaching as Decision Making: Successful Practices for the Secondary Teacher (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merril/Prentice Hall.

Starko, A.J., Sparks-Langer, G.M., Pasch, M., Frankes, L., Gardner, T.G., & Moody, C.D. (2003). Teaching as Decision Making: Successful Practices for the Elementary Teacher (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merril/Prentice Hall.

Wilson, G.W., Alphona, A., Wyatt, J., & Pichelli, S. (2014/2019). Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal. New York: Marvel Comics.

“What if . . . ?” and More Marvelous Questions

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The latest Disney+ Marvel series is new in a multitude (multiverse?) of ways.

First, What if . . . ? is noteworthy as the first animated show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU. (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t count . . . not yet, at least.)

Second, What if . . . ? is significant since it explores all kinds of hypothetical storylines in the MCU. The series takes well-known characters and contexts of the films and follows different routes. (Remember when the first Avengers movie combining multiple film heroes was considered a risky idea? Look how far we have come!)

So far, we’ve seen different characters taking the mantle of significant heroes (Captain America, Star-Lord), as well as heroic characters doing unheroic things. In addition to the allure of endless possibilities, the What if . . . ? series is enjoyable because these alternative tales come in bite-sized episodes. Even so, some of these scenarios have potential for all kinds of fun adventures and far-reaching ramifications.

As a testimony to the power of “What if . . . ?” consider how there are 200+ issues of this comic series, begun nearly 50 years ago. As creators publish stories in “regular” comics continuity, other writers can explore branching paths and possibilities.

The question “What if . . . ?” can foster similar results in the classroom. Past blogs have written about the power of questioning, which you can check out HERE and HERE.

It’s important to remember not all questions are equal. Some are more effective in cultivating engaged and reflective students. Below is a list of potential questions teachers can ask to facilitate, encourage, and assess students’ learning.

  • “What if . . . ?”
  • “For what reasons . . . ?”
  • “What do you think could happen if . . . ?”
  • “How might that compare with . . . ?”
  • “Why might . . . ?”
  • “Where else could we . . . ?”

These are just some examples, and I’ve shared more in a recently published article available HERE. Note that NONE of these questions can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No” or similar dichotomous response.

In other words, students have to go further and THINK about the topic in a more robust manner. Moreover, there’s less chance they can “fake it” or just guess an answer. Often, such work promotes collaboration and communication.

Such open-ended questions may not catalyze a zany tale about alternative Avengers, but they can produce meaningful learning.

One caution is to beware of counter-productive conversation. When dealing with open-ended questions like “What if . . . ?” there is potential for students to go down pathways the teacher did not intend. While this may add to creativity and application, it could also veer into darker territories. Just consider some of sadder episodes of What if . . . ? we’ve already seen, in which [Spoiler Alert] a hero becomes the villain, or ultimately destroys their world.

Hopefully your classroom won’t pivot to such hopelessness. Still, be mindful of keeping students on-task and oriented toward learning goals. Even when using open-ended prompts, teachers can guide student thinking toward intended outcomes. Such parameters could be as simple as time limits or brainstorm boundaries. For example, a science teacher might pose a challenge that prompts investigation, but requires students to use only certain materials or technology. Sometimes this is called a “testable question” in science classrooms.

No matter the subject, teachers can be purposeful in using “What if . . . ?”-type questions to get the full effect. For inspiration, consider how masterminds behind the MCU have carefully scheduled and set up movies, television shows, specials, etc. Each production features minute details and allusions that result in monumental meaning in subsequent films. (For example, it’s no coincidence that What if . . . ? has come out between the Loki television series and the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home film.)

Teachers don’t have the multi-million dollar movie machine like the MCU, but they can still be intentional and inspirational by providing creative, challenging, and coordinated questions for their students.

Just imagine . . . What if . . . ?

Magic of Meta

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It’s been such a crazy year and a long time since our last post. As evidence, check out this more recent pic of the previous blog’s cute kitten:

Change is actually the topic for this blog. In particular, let’s look at the transformation of superheroes and teachers.

(Slight Spoilers Below!)

Televised Transformations

The new Disney+ show “WandaVision” has been a love letter to sitcom television through the ages. Although it started as a unique gimmick, the episodic show slowly revealed a larger narrative and connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Along the way, viewers got to enjoy a loving homage to past and present TV shows from “I Love Lucy,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Ties,” “Modern Family,” and more.

Interestingly, despite advances in technology and techniques, “WandaVision” as a show didn’t stray much from the standard sitcom formula. Even though styles changed over the decades, each 30-minute episode featured similar jokes, hijinks, character interactions, and more. (And if you’ve seen the show, you might notice parallels to the grieving process.)

True change finally occurs when a new element is introduced. Namely, magic.

Hints of the supernatural popped up throughout, but it wasn’t until “WandaVision” was halfway over when the series truly transformed.

Change in Schools

Teachers, think about the analogy to education. Schools and classrooms are notorious for slow transformation.

Take a look at the following slideshow of classroom photos and notice the similarities over the years.

One of these classroom images isn’t even a REAL school. It’s from the Star Wars show “The Mandalorian.” If that story takes place “in a galaxy far, far away,” it shows how widespread and ingrained our cultural view of schools reaches.

This is not to say that a certain formula is always bad. On the contrary, it often helps to follow a standard template and procedure. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That said, the best teachers (and schools) strive to always get better. That pursuit of improvement requires transformation, which might involve drastic changes from time to time.

The show “WandaVision” demonstrated that minor changes can occur over time, but true innovation requires something more, something magical.

So Meta

A lot of the fun from “WandaVision” has been its meta-commentary on television eras and cultural norms. This involves stepping back from the story and reflecting on the larger picture. The same happens to the characters in the show.

In order for education to improve, teachers and schools must take time to “step back” and reflect. Research on learning supports the powerful role of “metacognition,” or “thinking about thinking.” Educators are encouraged to use metacognition strategies to help students learn, and we should do the same for our own growth, learning, and change.

Metacognition may not be magical, but it can certainly lead to metamorphosis.