Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Superpowers in the Classroom

I grew up with the X-men. I started collecting comic books when the first issue of the New X-men, the issue that introduced the world to Colossus, Storm, and Nightcrawler. I often fantasized about having their superpowers: super human strength, the ability to fly, the power to teleport, but without the noxious fumes associated with Kurt Wagner's power (Bamf!). 

Those skills, attractive as they remain to me today, wouldn't be all that helpful in the classroom. They'd be great ice-breakers, cool attention-grabbers. Perhaps I could use them for classroom management. But once the novelty wore off, those powers would simply become one of my quirks, not anything that substantially enhanced by ability to teach or improve student learning. 

So what super power would I want in the classroom? I would like to control time, to operate at regular speed while the world around me moves in slow motion. Kind of like Quicksilver from this summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past. He could move so quickly in time that he could pluck bullets out of the air, avoid being punched by an adversary, or even playing ping pong against himself. That's the power I want. 

Not that bullets or punches fly in my classrooms. But I would like more time to thoughtfully react to students. Questions deserve intentional, deliberate responses. Classroom debates and discussions, that seem to move at lightening speed, often require me to intervene. Having that extra five or ten seconds could help me make my comments more effective. And then there's the issue of responding to classroom management issues. An extra fifteen seconds would help me prioritize the best strategies to manage disruptions more effectively than my off the cuff, spontaneous reactions, responses that tend toward unproductive snark or sarcasm. 
I know its important for students to see me mull over ideas, to take my time in conversation. Students need folks to model the habit of thoughtful reflection, of listening before responding. With practice, I could develop a tolerance for deliberation, for that intentional wait-time before responding. But in the meantime, how cool to have the power to manipulate time.