Deep Cuts and Easter Eggs

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So Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out recently, and it’s doing quite well at the box office.

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An interesting focus on Vol. 2 has been all the “Easter Eggs” hidden in the film.  These  brief glimpses are easy to miss, encouraging repeated viewings ($$) and audience scrutinization.

Below is just a sampling of Easter Egg lists made about Guardians Vol. 2:

 

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Easter Egg hunts are not just for lesser-known superheroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy.  You can find lists of hidden gems in all sorts of superhero movies, from more recent films like Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange to the very first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Iron Man.

 

My personal favorite Easter Egg is the “circus monkey” drawn by Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger.  In the comics, Steve worked as a freelance artist from time to time. This sketching scene not only alludes to this history, but it also fits perfectly in the context of the movie.

 

An older sketch-based Easter Egg is the satirical “Bat Man” drawing given to newsman Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) in the 1989 Batman movie.  If you note the artist’s signature, it’s none other than Batman creator Bob Kane!

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Another name for obscure pop culture references is “deep cuts,” a term from the music industry.  Deep cuts are little-known songs on an album that don’t get airtime or attention of more commercial- and radio-friendly singles.  Only die-hard fans are familiar with such songs that most of us have never heard.

In the same way, a lot of “deep cuts” in superhero movies are overlooked by casual viewers.  Often, these cameos and allusions are included simply as a wink or nod to eagle-eyed fans.  Other times, they might be hints of what will happen in an upcoming sequel or spin-off.

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Educators know all about “deep cuts,” and we’re NOT talking about financial funding (at least not this time).

For quite a while now, a common phrase in curriculum is “mile wide, inch deep.” Basically the phrase refers to American students learning a lot of general topics at the surface and not enough “deeper” content in more detail.  This is NOT a new issue, and is something standards are both blamed for as well as championed for trying to fix.

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Take a closer look, if interested, at this ongoing topic over the years:

 

There’s probably not one simple answer to the problem of “quantity over quality.”  However, one question to ask is “How deep?”

How much detail and depth do students need with respect to any given topic?  Again, standards documents may help in guiding educators to focus on key concepts and skills.  But what content is most important?  How much of it?

Here is a quote from the 1996 article linked above:

Before they reach high school, American students will have covered more topics than 75% of the students in other countries; yet in many cases, they will have been taught some of the same topics several years in a row. 

So it’s not just a matter of “quantity over quality;” it’s also an issue of redundancy.

However, based on what we know about learning, repeated exposure to the same content is actually necessary for helping students develop a solid foundational understanding.  Of course, revisiting a certain concept should NOT be a simple rehashing, but involve further exploration, examination, reflection, and application.

Revisiting content should also NOT be mining for trivia.  When a lesson dives deep into a subject, often the temptation is to dig up little-known facts that have little worth in the big picture.  In other words, educators are focusing on the Easter Eggs, as opposed to the larger story and impact.

 

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Missing the point.

I’m all for trivia games and fun.  (Obscure knowledge is part of the fanboy job description.) However, trivia should not come at the expense of meaningful learning and application.  In our quest for more depth in subject learning, teachers must be careful not to spend too much time and energy on trivia.

Consider common modifiers that accompany “trivia” and its related terms:  useless trivia, absurd information, pointless knowledge, random facts, and even the modifier trivial, which Merriam-Webster defines as “of little worth or importance.”

Sounds like an Easter Egg to me, especially the kind with one measly jelly bean inside.

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Black licorice.  Nasty.

 

Teachers, ask yourself if playing Jeopardy! is the best way to review a unit.  (Or Pictionary or Trashketball or Classroom Bingo or other review games.) How can you guide students in a more engaging and thorough examination of relevant content?  How can you expand upon this information for more application and extensions?

Or in movie terms, how can you entice the audience so they hunger for a sequel?

 

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To be continued . . .

 

What about you? What’s your favorite Easter Egg or deep cut?  What is their role in the classroom?

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Teacher versus Teacher

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The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to watch the latest trailers for next year’s big superhero movies.

First up is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, opening in theaters March 25, 2016.

Soon after comes Captain America: Civil War, hitting the big screens May 6, 2016.

Notice any trends?  Take a look again at these images:

 

That’s right folks, 2016 is the year of the superhero stare-down.

Oh yeah.  It’s also the year of superhero versus superhero.  Sounds fun, yes?  (Almost as fun as a stare-down contest.  Hulk make puny human blink!)

Heroes fighting heroes is nothing new.  They’ve been doing it in comic books for decades.  That’s how Wolverine and the Hulk first met, back in The Incredible Hulk #181, published November 1974.

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Fighting is how Wolverine and the Hulk meet a lot of folks.

Marvel and DC Comics have occasionally joined forces to have their heroes fight it out, most memorably in 2003-2004’s JLA/Avengers mini-series.

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Some of the previous films have already included minor skirmishes, too, such as Iron Man and War Machine in Iron Man 2 (life lesson: don’t drink and don an Iron Man suit).

 

Marvel’s “big three” heroes–Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America–first share the screen after a fracas in the first Avengers movie:

 

Then we also have Iron Man vs. Hulk in the second Avengers movie (Age of Ultron), which kicks things up a notch.

 

There’s no mystery why these fights occur.  Heroes duking it out with each other is loads of fun to watch.  And most of the time, they eventually work out their differences to defeat the REAL bad guys.

Heroes versus heroes is dangerous and entertaining, and the same is true for teachers versus teachers–but not in a good way.

Given the pressures involved with teaching, disagreements are bound to arise from time to time.  We don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to assessments, curriculum, scheduling, resources, management and discipline, and more.  Heck, there may even be some colleagues in your building or department that rub you the wrong way.

As teachers we must not allow friction to fester.  Ongoing bickering is noticeable and results in classroom snickering. Dampen combustible situations with grace and good-natured humor.  “Lie low” when you need to.

Resist the urge to blow off steam in front of your students. Avoid any gossip or rumor-mongering by students and staff alike.  Speak highly of your colleagues in front of others, pointing out strengths and past successes.

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Here are some other resources for fostering positive relationships with your co-workers:

The website We Are Teachers has an eye-catching blogpost entitled “How to Get Along with ANY Teaching Colleague (From the Whiners to the Kiss Ups!)”  Of course, it’s important to consider what kind of colleague you become on your not-so-good days.  Personally, I’ve been known to be the “negative Nancy” (Ned) during grouchy times.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (of the United Kingdom) has a helpful guide for new and beginning teachers.  Some useful advice includes “staffroom etiquette” and what to do if you have concerns about colleagues.

The National Education Association (NEA) provides ideas for building collaboration in your classroom via co-teaching.  Instead of negative energy, co-teaching harnesses positive teacher relationships and teamwork for successful student learning.

For a more in-depth examination, take a look at the book Teachers Working Together by Mario Martinez.  For a quick view, You can find excerpts here courtesy of Google Books.

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Hopefully these resources will provide you with inspiration and information on getting along with your fellow educators.

And if it’s just inspiration you need, remember the current holiday season and do your part to bring . . .

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