The official release for Teaching Is for Superheroes! is still a few weeks away. But until then, you can take a SNEAK PEEK INSIDE the book!
Look for AMAZING things like Additional Praise! Table of Contents! Copyright Protections! And a preview of completely original (and creative, I might add)interior artwork melding superheroes and teachers, courtesy of Kevin Yancey himself.
We’ve talked before (HERE and HERE) about using classroom TEASERS (notSpoilers) as a way to ENGAGE and MOTIVATE students. These approaches can fit a range of instructional settings.
No matter where they fall, such strategies often include a preview, or “sneak peak,” fostering further learning ahead. They work much in the same way as Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.
Speaking of “Looking Inside,” one of the BEST educational books out there (11 editions and counting!) is Looking in Classrooms. You can find older editions for pretty cheap, and the newest is available here on Amazon (of course), with its own “Look Inside” (of course).
Check out this book, and you’ll see chapters full of Important School Stuff like Motivation, Assessment, Management (two parts, natch), and my favorite, “Classrooms are Complex.”
Of course, if you are more of a “bottom line” sort of person, you can just skip ahead to the end of this preview and skim the Index.
You can do that for either book. And if you check out MY book’s index, you’ll see everything from “The ABCs of Classroom Management (Kovarik), 80″ (one of the first items) all the way to the very last item, “Zipper, checking, 42.”
If THAT doesn’t get you motivated to read more, I don’t know what will.
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.
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!
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):
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!
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?
Merriam-Webster defines “arch-enemy” as “a principal enemy.” The Online Etymology Dictionary provides more of a historical background for the term, which arose in the 1540s.
“Arch-” refers to “chief” or “first.” “Enemy” comes from Latin inimicus, which literally means “an unfriend.”
Every good superhero has an equally evil arch-enemy. Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman and Joker. It’s commonly held that a hero is only as good as his or her villain. Check out this keen artwork picked up at Deviant Art!
First there’s DC:
And then there’s Marvel:
Spiffy visuals, eh?
There’s even a fun quiz to see how many heroes and arch-enemies you can match.
Teachers also face arch-enemies, but who (or what) are they?
We’ve talked before about both issues (click HERE and HERE for the former; or HERE and HERE for the latter). But this time let’s turn the focus on ourselves.
Sometimes a teacher’s worst enemy is himself or herself.
This past year, the Marvel Comics Universe featured a “Secret Empire” story in which Captain America was a sleeper agent for the nefarious Hydra. Say it ain’t so!
It was all due to a personified Cosmic Cube girl messing with Cap’s mind. (Just go with it.) Things all turned out okay and Captain America is back to his super-heroics, having punched himself in the teeth with Thor’s Mjolnir hammer. Comic books – yay!
Steve Rogers is not the only iconic hero to face himself in battle. The film Superman III, despite all of its faults, has a nifty Superman vs. Clark Kent battle thanks to Richard Pryor’s home-brewed kryptonite.
Here’s a clip:
Hopefully, teachers don’t get so violent in confronting themselves. But we should be brutally honest in our self-evaluations. Are we losing our passion? Are we giving our best? Are we informing our instructional decisions on sound research as opposed to the latest fad?
Let’s not get too down on ourselves. Everyone has a bad day. An “off week.” A challenging class of students – the kind that makes you earn your paycheck. Burnout is common, but treatable.
Regardless of setbacks or success, the best teachers are always getting better. Let’s look into the mirror to recognize strengths, pinpoint weaknesses, and grow the heroic abilities necessary to “fight the good fight” of educating kids.
“Grit” is a popular term in educational circles today, particularly with helping students succeed.
Grit is “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” “having stamina,” and “sticking with your future day-in day-out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”
I got those “gritty” quotes from the following TED Talk video with Angela Lee Duckworth, and you should watch the entire thing (about six minutes).
In the world of superheroes, “grit” has a much different meaning. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, “grim and gritty” superheroes nearly saturated the comic book market. If you’re interested, you can read a thorough analysis of this time period HERE.
“Grim and gritty” got so popular it seemed almost everyone got in on the act–Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, even Aquaman!
Coming to theaters near you!
Thankfully, most of these heroes’ gritty phases were short-lived and brighter days returned. For some heroes (or anti-heroes), however, it’s always been about grim and grit: The Punisher, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and about 87% of Image Comics from the 1990s. Exhibits A-to-Xtreme below . . .
Given the above definition of “grit,” I would argue that thegrittiest superhero is Captain America.
Remember, Steve Rodgers stood up to evil and injustice while he was still a 98-pound weakling. His heart and passion did not change after he gained powers and a costume. At times, Steve has given up or lost the title of Captain America. But he continued his work behind the scenes and/or assuming another superhero identity.
We’ve already gotten a glimpse that Steve’s non-Captain America heroics will appear in upcoming Avengers movies:
(He’s even got a beard – extra grit!)
At the time of the TED Talk video, not much was known about teaching and cultivating grit in students. Nevertheless, you can find research summaries HERE and HERE, which also include resources and tools for student grittification*.
*Trademark 2017, Daniel J. Bergman
In the video, Duckworth refers to research of Carol Dweck on “growth mindset” as one potential factor in teaching grit. This is a good place to start.
For example, HERE is one of Dr. Dweck’s articles (“The Perils and Promises of Praise”) that discusses the impact of teacher praise on students’ motivation and self-concept. All teachers should read this article, since 1) it is short, and 2) it has direct application in the classroom. In other words, it won’t take a lot of grit. But you should stop and think about how you respond to students, and what other messages are conveyed in your words.
And this is just one step. As explained near the end of the TED Talk video, teachers who want gritty students must also be gritty themselves.
Don’t let grit become one more educational fad that passes away.
The next BIG superhero movie coming to theaters is The LEGO Batman Movie!
In a promotional stunt, LEGO Batman appeared alongside LEGO superheroes from DC Comics’s CW television shows, which you can check out below:
What makes this video clip special is it is the first time DC superheroes from the CW TV channel (Green Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, The Atom) have merged with a DC superhero from the movies (Batman).
“Big deal?” you think?
Actually there’s been a lot of chatter among fans, critics, and industry reporters about the pros, cons, and possibilities of merging film and TV-based superheroes. These are characters that come from the same comic book universe, but are featured in separate media outlets–theatrical, broadcast television, or streaming.
DC, for example, has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman dedicated to film, along with other heavy hitters from the Justice League (Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash). This gets problematic, however, since The Flash also stars in his own television show on the CW (as do Green Arrow and Supergirl, who has also met a TV version of Superman).
Confused? You’re not the only one, and some people argue these two “universes” should stay separate (see here and here). Others think there could be a way to have a crossover of sorts between TV and Film (read more here).
More intermingling makes sense for Marvel superheroes, since theoretically, many of these characters actually DO live in a single universe shared between the movies (Avengers, etc.) and television shows (Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc.).
And let’s take a closer look at teachers from different universes (i.e. different grade levels).
The Teacher Channel’s blog “Tchers’ Voice” shares commentary on learning from teachers of different grades. The blog post is called “Pathway to Collaboration,” and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Challenge yourself to find new ways to team up and learn with colleagues in your building, district, and beyond.
Sadly, there’s not much else out there about cross-grade teacher collaboration, although someone did do a doctoral dissertation on this topic. (If you need a little light reading, you can find the entire 418-page document here.)
I’ll conclude with examples of insight gained and projects accomplished when my world collided with those of other teachers.
A fourth grade teacher who showed me all kinds of management techniques and student jobs that I could also apply in my high school classroom.
A middle school science teacher who collaborated with me to successfully submit a grant for highway safety physics curriculum.
A business teacher who modeled practical classroom procedures for high school seniors, giving flexibility and freedom to young adults weeks away from graduating.
And several more colleagues, mentors, current and former students co-presenting and co-publishing academic work.
No movies or television projects yet, but maybe someday.
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.)
B-lister at best
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Every Marvel movie features snappy quips, and one of my favorite lines from Captain America: Civil War comes from hero Falcon, when he and Bucky first run into Spider-Man:
Gimmicks have a long history in comic books. Specifically, let’s look at comic book gimmick covers. Like any good “publicity stunt,” gimmick covers draw attention to sell more comic books. Typically these specific issues celebrate milestone anniversaries, debut series, or other special events.
The good folks at Comic Book Resources (CBR) recently shared their “All-Time Greatest Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” and you can read about it right here.
In this list, you’ll learn all kinds of neat history and trivia, including what made these gimmicks special. Behold covers with poly-bagged pop-ups, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, embossed chromium and/or foil, die-cut claw marks, bullet holes, and more.
My favorite is the Superman “Colorform” cover, where you can create your own battle scene using the reusable plastic pieces. (iPad got nothin’ on Coloforms.)
Gimmicks are fun, but they can also go horribly wrong. To wit, CBR contributors also compiled the “All-Time Worst Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” which you can read here if you dare.
These unfortunate “shticks” include lenticular artwork, face-shaped die-cut covers, duplicate monochrome colors, Magic Eye illusions, body heat-sensitive “thermochrome,” and more bullet holes.
Gimmick comic book covers have mostly disappeared, but new ideas (or old revivals) pop up from time to time. The same is true for educational gimmicks. Teachers must be vigilant in protecting their students (and themselves) from too many gimmicks, fads, and ploys.
What are some of these educational gimmicks? For a start, take a look at the following graphic highlighting “20 Years of Educational Fads,” put together by Te@cher Toolkit (“the most influential blog on education in the UK”).
Such new (or repackaged) educational ideas begin as noteworthy or eye-catching. A financial boost often jumpstarts such initiatives. But eventually the dollars dwindle away, followed by fading enthusiasm and support. Given the effort and time spent by various stakeholders, you can imagine the subsequent feelings of resentment and distrust.
Please note that I am not poo-pooing all gimmicks. After all, I’m the guy who forked over cash to get this hologram-highlighted wrap-around cover:
And this foil embossed beauty:
And even this one:
(Yup, that’s a special #0 issue mini-comic glued to the cover of the #1 issue regular-sized comic.)
Gimmicks can be good for a laugh. And sometimes they are a breath of fresh air. Used right, gimmicks can make cute mementos, quick distractions, and useful object lessons.
Nevertheless, it’s important to distinguish between a novel trick (that’s fun for a little while) and a credible research-supported practice (that stands the test of time).
What about you? What educational gimmicks have you enjoyed, advocated, and/or suffered?