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Superhero Teacher

I am a little bit of a comic book/superhero nerd. Now, I don’t speak like some tribal space language or have Superman sheets where me and Lois Lane, I mean Rachael and I, sleep. I just have a little bit of an itch to admire them. It first began when I was pretty young and I would watch “Superfriends” and “The Justice League” with my middle brother pretty much every time it was on, which was when we probably should’ve still been asleep. Needless to say, I still have the itch 25 years later.

My favorite superhero was Green Lantern when I was a kid. I thought his powers were so cool and out of the ordinary. Everybody else was either rich (Batman), extremely smart (Flash), Aliens (Superman), or fell into toxic waste or became radioactive somehow (Spiderman). I felt like finding a magical ring and training to create objects out of the ring that was useful in combat was a pretty neat trick. But as I got older my tastes changed. I became more drawn to the Batman and Captain America types. Why? Because the person that they were becoming more interesting.

You see the thing that started attracting me to Captain America and Batman was their humanity and their story. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) had a story but there wasn’t much depth to it. Everybody, however, knows the story of Bruce Wayne (Batman) losing his parents when he was very young. We also know how throughout his journey to become Batman and defend Gotham there is always some angst or desperation; accessibility into the psyche of Batman you didn’t seem to get with other superheroes, because his actions weren’t as motivated by virtue as the other superheroes. It seemed you always were able to relate to him because you are not “perfect” like Superman or extremely virtuous like Captain America. (Don’t worry, I am making the teacher connection soon).

Yesterday, I had a conversation with Chantell Mason for the next episode; one of the things we discussed is how it is okay to fail as a teacher. We talked about how teachers have been previously viewed as an infallible being who knew all. I have found that persona to be difficult to uphold. I have failed many times as a teacher, and have openly admitted it to students. But what has seemed to happen through it all is that I have been able to create relationships with students who previously saw me as inaccessible because of that societal mythical creation of teacher perfectionism. I broke down and said that I am fallible. I think what we don’t realize is that it allows us to create relationships with students who we might have thought were beyond reach.

I taught AP World History for one year and what I realized in that year is that all of these students believed that they should be perfect and took every ounce of negative feedback they received as a personal attack on themselves. But once I started experimenting more in the classroom with technology and lesson plans outside of the norm, some of which failed, students started to respond to their correction with less of a personal attack and more like collaborative constructive criticism. That collaborative approach eventually turned into triple the amount of passing AP scores than the school had ever achieved.

I don’t say this to brag on myself or even my students, I say this because we need to allow ourselves to be fallible so that we can become more accessible to students who need us. I think because we are trying to maintain this perfectionism image we simply don’t try new things because we are scared of it failing. But what we need to realize that when we fail, we learn, and we build stronger relationships with our students- those relationships which we can use to make stronger classroom communities and a better Gotham City.

I hope that you enjoyed. Go make mistakes!

Best Wishes


Seth Tripp