Summer Break 2017

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Summer Vacation is well underway, but today (June 21) is the official first day of summer.

“Teach Like a Superhero!” is also taking a summer break, but here are a handful of highlights from the previous academic year:

Job Juggler – Batman’s butler Alfred has many jobs, and so do teachers!

D-List to A-List – Superheroes can go from D-List to the A-List, and so can your students!

Flame On! – How to avoid teacher burnout, with help from the Human Torch, Ryan Gosling, and Julia Child.

Leave a Legacy – How do teachers truly influence students . . . and generations to come?

 

Enjoy your summer!

And honor Adam West’s memory by catching some waves!

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Leave a Legacy

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Marvel Comics recently announced their next company-wide comic book event(s), a back-to-back blockbuster starting with “Generations” this summer and then “Legacy” this fall.

There aren’t too many details yet, but “Generations” features stories teaming up heroes with shared names or titles.  For example, the original Thor (a.k.a. “Unworthy Thor” or Odinson) fights alongside with the current Thor (a.k.a. “Mighty Thor” or Jane Foster).  Or Wolverine (Logan) with his cloned successor All-New Wolverine (X-23, Laura).

A little confusing, yes, especially for anyone who hasn’t read a Marvel comic book the last few years.  During this time, several classic characters have stepped down from their costumes (for various reasons) to be replaced by different individuals–other heroes, a supporting cast member, or brand new characters.

With “Legacy,” some readers speculate many classic characters will return to prominence, donning their masked identify once again.  We don’t know much for now, except that long-running titles are resuming their original issue numbering (e.g. back in the 100s, 200s, 500s, or more, instead of resetting to issue #1 every year or so), and other classic elements are coming back–cover box art, tiny mugshots in the corner, Marvel Value Stamps, etc.

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The focus seems to be the “legacy” of these identities–icons that expand beyond one single person.

Here’s a quote from Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso: “We are looking to honor the legacy of the entire universe, so we are taking the iconic legacy heroes and pairing them with the new class.”

And another quote, this time from Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada: “The Marvel Legacy initiative is a celebration of everything that makes Marvel the best in fiction, and it’s a signifier of a new era for Marvel Comics.”  (Look for Quesada’s artwork on the cover of Marvel Legacy #1.)

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Interestingly, DC Comics is more well-known for its roster of “legacy heroes.”  Again, these are identities that have passed from various individuals.  Sometimes the mantle goes back and forth, and sometimes the mask and costume are handed off permanently–or at least for a decade or more, an entire generation of comic book readers.

Here are some of DC’s more famous “legacy heroes” and some (not all) noteworthy characters who have held the title.

The Flash: Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen

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Green Lantern: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner,

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What makes the DC legacy heroes unique is their extensive history and long-lasting impact.  Instead of switching a character for just a short story, event, or gimmick, these replacements truly add to the legacy of the hero.  In some cases, the successor is more famous than the original character, with more accomplishments and greater impact.

Teachers, do you see the connection to our profession?

Contemplate the following statement (and pretty photo, courtesy of Brainy Quote) by American historian and writer Henry Adams:

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Some of my current research deals with the question, “What makes an influential teacher?”

In one study (#10004), I asked nearly a hundred future science educators to share information about their most influential teacher.  Here are the SEVEN most common traits found in their responses describing an influential teacher (along with examples from answers given):

1) Passion  

  • “[He] brought his love of science and teaching with him every day.”
  • “She was unfailing in her positivity.”

2) Rapport 

  • “She cared about us and how much we learned.”
  • “He personally acknowledged each student.”

3) Pedagogy 

  • “She knew how to break down the material so it was easy to understand.”
  • “[K]new when students have problems and what to say to each student, if it is different words to different students.”

4) Time 

  • “[T]ook the time out to explain stuff.”
  • “He gave lots of time to students after class. As much as they needed to get it.”

5) High Expectations 

  • “She pushed me to be a leader in school.”
  • “The way she never gave up on you and made you believe in yourself more than you could imagine. She always had high standards for us.”

6) Fun 

  • “She always made teaching look fun.”
  • “[He] showed me that chemistry is fun.”

7) Helpful 

  • “She was always very helpful and kind.”
  • “His door was always open to his students and he was willing to help any student with whatever problems they had.”

 

These responses came from future science teachers, so the sample size is limited, of course.  But ask yourself which of these traits align with YOUR most influential teacher. What other characteristics did he or she display?

More than one of these seven traits appeared in 80% of participants’ “influential teacher” descriptions.  That means that these characteristics are not isolated, but rather intertwined with one another, even synergistic.

Also consider that almost two thirds (63.8%) of the influential teachers described by these future science teachers did NOT teach science.  There is more to influential teaching than the subject you teach. Or in other words, to quote Muppets creator Jim Henson . . .

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Take a moment to remember the most influential teachers you’ve had, and what made them so influential?  Then ask yourself what sort of influence you want to have on YOUR students.  How can you make a lasting, positive difference in the lives of your students, starting right now?

In many ways, every teacher is a “legacy hero.”  The privilege is not receiving personal fame for our profession, but in inspiring and impacting the generations to come.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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?

 

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Super-Quotes

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With the dawn of the school year upon us, what better way to begin than with some inspirational quotes?

The Huffington Post (with State Farm and Getty Images) put together a terrific collection with equally inspiring images.

Here are two of my personal favorites:

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And you can find the rest of them HERE.

 

Such quotes can be motivational tools for TEACHERS as much as their STUDENTS.

Here are several non-superheroic (but still super) quotes I share in my classes.

    We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard!    – John F. Kennedy

 

    Life is meant to be a never-ending education, and when this is fully appreciated, we are no longer survivors but adventurers.   – David McNally

 

    Excellence is not an act but a habit. The things you do the most are the things you will do best.     – Marva Collins

 

    Not everything important is measurable and not everything measurable is important.     – Elliot Eisner

 

What about you?

Which quotes or mottos do you share with your kids?  What do you use to keep yourself inspired?  Please share!

 

What’s in a Name?

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Keen-eyed readers will notice that this blog has recently changed its official name from Teaching is for Superheroes! to Teach Like a Superhero!  (The exclamation point remains!)

Not that big of a change, really, except that the new name rolls off the tongue a little more easily.  Another change is the primary web address:  http://www.teachlikeasuperheroblog.com.  This new URL is not very short, but it gets to the point.

(I tried a shorter address, but “www.tlash.com” sounds like an eyeliner product.  And a good of an excuse as any to share this meme inspired by Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

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If all of this http://www.mumbo.jumbo stresses you out, don’t worry.  The old web address, http://www.teachingsupeherheroes.wordpress.com, still works and will lead you right back here.

This post is not just an announcement about blog name changes.

Let’s talk about names of superheroes and names of teachers.

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I remember two things from my very first teacher back-to-school in-service meeting.  The first memory is a litany of details regarding health insurance and employee benefits.  The second memory is our assistant principal reminding us all that we are “Mr. Smith,” not “Smith” or “Mr. S.”

His point was to start the school year establishing a professional identify and requiring our students to address us as such.  It may seem like no big deal for a student to abbreviate your name (“Mr. B.”) or leave off your honorific (“Bergman”).  Some teachers may even welcome such nicknames to foster a more relaxed classroom environment.

But we must always be careful to not get too comfortable with our students.  Stop and consider the range of impacts this lackadaisical habit could impart.

I’m sure I’ve allowed my students to call me all sorts of things and get away with it.  But it does help to maintain a level of respect among everyone – teacher to student, student to teacher, teacher to teacher, student to student, and more.

Proper names matter among superheroes, too, and not just with maintaining secret identities.  Personally, I cringe whenever I read superheroes calling each other playful nicknames.

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They’re heroes, not BFFs!

Superhero nicknames have long been a staple in comics.  Witty banter and clever monikers keep the “funny” in funny books, after all.  And it helps convey some characters’ personalities.

Wolverine, for example, with Colossus:

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And here (off-panel) with Professor Xavier:

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The best name-caller, of course, was Stan “The Man” Lee, who was so proficient he even came up with nicknames for his real-life co-workers (e.g. Jack “The King” Kirby, “Jazzy” Johnny Romita, “Merry” Gerry Conway, and many MANY more right here).

Like any good joke, though, overuse of superhero sobriquets can get tiresome.  Especially among champions who should focus their attention on more important things – like fighting bad guys and saving the world!

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What’s worse, many of these affectionate nicknames can actually undermine the job of life-risking heroics.

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“Spidey” for Spider-Man works fine for his hip quippy character;  but take a look at other heroes and their less-dignified labels:

Batman = “Bats”

Superman = “Supes”

Green Lantern = “GL”

Ugh.  Apparently, characters in the DC Universe have a thing for abridging names.  Marvel nicknames, though more colorful, can still cheapen a heroic legacy.

The Mighty Thor = “Goldilocks”

The Hulk = “Ol’ Greenskin”

Iron Man = “Shellhead”

Captain America = “Cap,” “Winghead,” “Star-Spangled Avenger”

We come back to Captain America because it’s maybe the clearest example of a noble hero who’s legendary status is downgraded by casual familiarity.  And it’s not just by fellow heroes, but even by us regular citizens.

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Call me a Stick-in-the-Mud (“Bromidic Bergman”), but superheroes deserve a little more formality.  The same goes for teachers.  Although it may seem cool for kids to use teacher nicknames, be careful with letting things get too capricious or contemptuous.

So whenever you hear a student or colleague refer to you as  “Mrs. T” or “Thompson” or “Yo, Teach,” gently remind them how they can address you more properly.

Just remember, it’s not “Mr. F.” It’s Mr. Fantastic.

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And it’s not “Incredible;” it’s Mr. Incredible.

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And it’s not “Marvel;” it’s Ms. Marvel.

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Actually, the original Ms. Marvel goes by Captain Marvel now.

But never “Cap.”

Teaser Teachers

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One of my Super Bowl highlights is the glut of new movie trailers during the commercials.  Never mind that the 20 seconds or so may or may not actually wind up in the actual film.

Nowadays, most of these trailers go straight to the internet before the Super Bowl.  And now we don’t just have trailers, but also teasers, which are basically trailers for the trailers.

Here are a couple of teasers and/or trailers that caught my eye this year.  (Don’t blink.)

Cool, huh?  Even a few seconds can get the adrenaline pumping.

So how about us teachers?  How can we take some Hollywood magic and use it to “tease” our students?

A common practice is the use of bell work (or bell ringer), which helps with classroom management and should engage students in thinking.  Many teachers use bell work to review something from a past lesson or preview something  for the immediate next lesson.

Bell work helps create a useful routine in which students start the class (not the bell or the teacher) and the teacher can use these few minutes for taking attendance, addressing specific students’ needs, or other important tasks.

There are several resources out there for using “puzzlers” or trivia for bell work.  These are good in a pinch, and some can even foster meaningful discussions about students’ personal views and experiences.  Here is a variety of bell ringers from Kentucky (home state of mutant siblings Sam Guthrie a.k.a. Cannonball and Paige Guthrie a.k.a. Husk).

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Thanks, Kentucky and Graconius.  We owe ya both.

This is a start, and such resources are good for some days.  But let’s go beyond student/time management and really get students excited (or at least interested).

What sort of question or prompt can you pose on a given day that will not only get the students to work, but get them to think more deeply about the content you want them to learn?  How can you “tease” them?

Here are a few paired examples.  One bland, one better.  Reflect on these ideas to create or modify your own bell work prompts for upcoming classes.

BLAND: Please open your book to page 16.

BETTER: Please open your book to page 16.  Examine the two photos and write down as many similarities you can find.

BLAND: Please get out yesterday’s homework.

BETTER: Please review your homework with a neighbor and discuss any discrepancies in your answers.  Who is correct?  How do you know?

BLAND: Please copy the vocabulary words on the board.

BETTER: Pick out your favorite vocabulary word and draw a picture related to that term.  Share your sketch with a partner and see if they can guess the word.

See?  Not that hard to take a basic task and make it better (i.e. increase the students’ interest).

In addition to bell work at the start of class, teachers should tease their students at the end of class.

End-of-class activities often focus on a “wrap-up” or recap in which the class reviews what they learned that day.  If you do such activities, be sure to have the students tell YOU what they’ve learned, instead of you just telling them what they should have learned.

Strategies such as the Exit Slip or Ticket-out-the-Door provide other opportunities for students to share what they have (or have not) learned.  Teachers can prompt students to apply the content to a new situation.

Don’t make it a simple task.  Tease the students with a challenge or question that gets them wondering and thinking between the end of class and the next time they return to you.  It’s okay to leave students in suspense sometimes!

So here’s a challenge:

What’s your best “end of day” or “start of day” strategy?  Post a comment and share below!