Flashy Teachers

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We’ve been a little light on blog posts lately, but for good reasons!

Over the past year, I’ve been busy writing a few other projects. The first one is coming out in February 2019:

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My contribution to this book is only one chapter – “Impulsive Students, Speedster Teachers, and Education in the 1990s” – and here’s a preview:

In 1994, DC Comics presented a potential poster child for 1990s adolescence: Bart Allen, a.k.a. Impulse—a time-displaced teen speedster from the future with a short attention span, entertainment-first obsession, disregard for adult instruction, and a habit of leaping-before-looking. This chapter focuses on mentors Impulse encounters along the way—namely Wally West and Max Mercury.

To frame my analysis of Bart’s teachers, I applied the 1998 text Approaches to Teaching by Fenstermacher and Soltis.  And, of course, I used content from over two dozen different comic books. Here are a few examples:

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Wally West (The Flash) is similar to an “executive teacher,” hastening with curriculum, outcome-oriented lessons, and direct instruction for his student Bart.  Taken too far, this teaching can overwhelm the student, even one with super-speed. And the results can backfire . . .

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In contrast to Wally, Max Mercury is more like a “therapist teacher,” also called a “fostering” or “facilitator” teacher by Fenstermacher and Soltis.  But I doubt the authors envisioned a “therapist teacher” doing things like these . . .

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As a “therapist teacher,” Max focuses his attention not only on Bart’s skills, but also on the teenager’s personal development — making friends, making decisions, experiencing effects of relationships and choices. Cultivating personal development means not always giving students an answer, even when they beg for it at super-speed:

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Other times, a therapist teacher simply tells the student the honest truth, helping them refocus on the important goals:

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What kind of teacher are you most like? Both approaches have strengths, some more advantageous in one situation or another.

Learn more when the book comes out February 2019.  You can find it HERE and HERE.

In the meantime, we’ll revisit some of these topics here on this blog – hopefully sooner rather than later!

 

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Superhero Therapy

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The title of this blog entry may have you thinking that superheroes need therapy.  And, in fact, most probably do.

Who else dresses in a mask, tights, armor, and/or a cape and dives into danger at the drop of a hammer*?

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*Or in Thor’s case, the drop of Mjolnir—which can magically zip back into his hand à la Harry Potter’s Accio summoning charm. (Handy!)

Therapy for superheroes is something in definite need of attention.  And a clinical psychologist actually has done some work on this, which you can read about here.

Check it out and then return here.

 

Back yet?  Good.

The news story that inspired THIS entry is actually about how therapists have been using superheroes (and other geeky things) to help kids and adults.  You can read the original story at The Daily Beast’s website.

 

Done?  Okay, let’s talk about teaching.

But first let’s talk about Doc Samson, who’s both a superhero AND a therapistHow cool is that?

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Crackin’ skulls . . . Freudian style.

The good doctor is a “gamma-irradiated friend, rival, and psychiatrist of Bruce Banner.”  Dr. Bruce Banner is, of course, better known as the Incredible Hulk.

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Doc Samson first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #141 back in 1971, and does most of his adventuring alongside (or against) Marvel’s Green Goliath.

The most memorable Doc Samson stories, however, feature him sitting in his psychiatrist chair.  Such therapy sessions include two of the best issues of X-Factor.

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Take a gander here and here to glimpse into the inner lives of B-level mutants.

 

NOW let’s talk about teaching.

Where does superhero-themed therapy fit into the classroom?

Consider why kids (and adults) respond so well to superheroes for therapeutic treatment.  These icons of hope and heroism provide an outlet through which individuals can express their own doubts, decisions, and conflict in life.

And it’s not just comic book characters, either. The Daily Beast feature puts it this way:

“We’re all aware of the basic transformative properties of popular culture——namely, its ability to cheer you up, to make you laugh, and to make you cry.”

If therapists can use such elements to connect with their patients, imagine the power of linking popular culture with learning.

 

Teachers don’t have to cater to every student’s craze or hobby.  And we shouldn’t dilute or distort the content in a lame attempt to appear “cool.”

But we can pay attention to our students’ lives and watch for ways to relate our subject to their interests.  This is especially helpful with challenging and abstract topics.

(Do your students struggle with primary/secondary light colors and pigments?  Try using examples from the Green Lantern and the rest of the Emotional Spectrum heroes.)

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Colorful and Educational!

These examples don’t have to be from superheroes, geek culture, or popular media.  Students are diverse, as are their interests–sports, music, literature, the visual arts, traditions, and more.

 

There are times when teachers feel like we must be our students’ therapists.  And there are times when we need some therapy of our own.

But at all times, we can make learning memorable and meaningful.  One way to do that is by using illustrations and stories from pop culture.  Superheroes are prime candidates for this job.

(As soon as they get out of therapy.)