Sunday, July 10, 2011

Teaching and Superheroes: A Minor Musing

John Spencer has a posted "Why Superman Would Suck As a Teacher" on Teach Paperless.  If Spencer teaches half as well as he develops ideas and writes, he is a "super teacher."

His post got my comic book geek juices flowing, and I began pondering which superhero would make a good teacher.  I even skimmed the entire run of Avengers Academy to look for examples of superhero pedagogues.  As the cover of issue #11 shows, the traditional classroom has a powerful hold on the the American psyche, even the one in the Marvel Universe.  I've seen a few of those expressions in my classroom.

The short answer is no superhero would be a good teacher.  Some like the Hulk or Batman seem too driven by anger; Captain American or Professor Charles Xavier may be too idealistic.  Many including Reed Richards or Iron Man possess an intellect that would make it difficult to communicate with average students.  Others like Thor come from an era that would make it impossible to relate to contemporary students.  Most have personal lives that make reality TV pale in comparison.

That's not to say that superheroes don't possess qualities that teachers should have.  I would hope that teachers possess some of Spider-Man's wit.  Metaphorically, they need to have Luke Cage's unbreakable skin and Wolverine's healing power.  All should posses the desire to do the right thing, a quality that motivates superheros.

Perhaps a better discussion might be what sort of teachers should someone founding a "Justice League of Teachers," "A League of Extraordinary Teachers," "Teacher Avengers" want?  Batman may not have any superpowers but kryptonite doesn't bother him.  Captain America leads the Avengers even though he's never been the most powerful or most intelligent.

Some reformers seem to believe there's a "super teacher serum" that will allow every teacher to get every student to proficient in every subject.  The truth is far different.  When I walk into a classroom, I'm dealing with human beings with unique minds, personalities, histories.  Some will shut me out before I utter my first word or assign the first activity.  Others have shut out every other teacher but will listen to a few things I say.

Reformers would do well to understand that there's a reason that there's only one Hulk, Captain America or Batman; people react to stimulus whether it be radiation, "super teacher serum," or personal catastrophe differently.  It takes a collection of gifted humans, a few mutants, some technological superstars, and effective leaders to create a climate to teach the students populating our classrooms because some of those students have kryptonite.


yanktonirishred said...

Great Super hero teachers:
Dick Grayson/Robin 1/Nightwing/Batman: From Titans on through he is the voice of reason and compassion. He is even managing to teach Damian how to be a hero.

Wonder Woman. I'd pay attention in her class!!

Emma Frost: See above.

Peter Parker Taught college and high school quite well in the Marvel U. His self deprecating wit is understood by all students.

Hank McCoy. Prior to his secondary Mutation when he was much more fun loving, Hank would have been an amazing teacher mixing his intelligence with his wit.

Just a few I thought of.

LK said...

I agree about Pete Parker.

Neither you nor I would learn anything in a Wonder Woman/Emma Frost class. We would both be distracted.

The Beast is a tough call. I put him in the Reed Richards category. Kids would start keeping track of his "stars and garters" lines pretty quickly.

I need to follow Grayson more. I saw him as leader not teacher with Ostudents, but I'm willing to grant your point

I'll stand by my larger point: it takes all kinds to make a school work and reach students.