I am large. I contain multitudes.

I probably shouldn’t be telling this story. This story will probably get me in trouble, but it’s a really good one, so I feel compelled to tell it. I’ll just have to make it vague in places, but here it goes . . .

I was talking to another teacher about the books that I teach in my classroom and after I mentioned The Great Gatsby, this teacher responded, “I hated that book. I thought it was awful.”

The comment was something that I had heard a few times before for a number of reasons, so I took a stab at the usual suspects, “Was it the language? The ending? The plot? The -”

The other teacher cut me off and said, “It was FILLED with SIN!”

And I was taken aback a bit, but mostly due to the pronunciation of “sin” because it came off like a Baptist preacher on a hot July Sunday – that little extra syllable that makes it “sin-ah.” Something about the statement made me smile. It was so absurd.

After missing only one beat, I replied, “Well, yeah, isn’t that kind of the point?”

The teacher then really laid into the issue, “There isn’t one good person in the entire book! Everyone is cheating on each other and just out for money.”

I didn’t miss a beat this time. If anything, the comment gave me more time to construct my argument. “But the book is about how we as Americans want wealth, but then we see these people who are wealthy and they still want more. It criticizes the American Dream of wanting more and more and shows that we need to reevaluate and find new goals that don’t involve THINGS.”

I was about to go into an explanation about how this person was interpreting the book from a strictly moral criticism angle and that is fine, and the book has a strong moral message if one looks a bit deeper. And I wanted to say that from this person’s interpretation, the Bible shouldn’t be read either because it is filled with SIN. Everyone in that book does something terrible except Christ, so does the evil that men do invalidate the Bible? Of course not, because we are to learn from the bad things people do in order to make ourselves better.

Instead, this teacher decided to stop the conversation with, “I just think it’s really corrupt” which didn’t address any of my comments or my ideas. I realized then that I wasn’t going to win or change minds, so I walked away from it.

But that’s not what makes this story great.

A few weeks later, I was talking about wrestling with a friend of mine. I haven’t watched wrestling regularly in five years or so, but I still keep up with things from time to time and I can talk late 90s/early 2000s wrestling and 2006-2008 wrestling like a pro. In the middle of our conversation, the Anti-Gatsby teacher overheard us and looked at me in astonishment.

“YOU watch WRESTLING?!” this teacher’s jaw dropped.

And I wondered, “Do you think that I only read? That I only care about classic literature? I’ve never presented myself as a snob or as someone who was unapproachable, so why would anyone be surprised that I used to watch wrestling?”

I replied, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

And to me, quoting Walt Whitman to the question “You watch wrestling?” is perhaps the most perfect response an English teacher can have to someone who doesn’t appreciate reading.

Hell, maybe that’s why I’m apparently not approachable.

In the end, I relayed this story to my juniors and I was delighted to find them using “I am large. I contain multitudes” in arguments. They embraced that they can be nerdy and contradictory and that they can love so many different things in this world. On their finals, I asked the question “what is the most important thing you’ve learned this year” and many responded “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

And if I can only teach them one thing, I’m glad that it is a Whitman quote that they can live by.

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Four Color Teaching – What Kids Understand That Corporations Don’t

In Four Color Teaching, I discuss my experiences with comics and teaching. Today, I will talk about a discussion I had with 5 – 8th graders about diversity. 

Every year, I teach “How to Create Superheroes” at a local youth writing conference, and I always begin my sessions with the free-write topic of “Why do you think superheroes are important?” And after five minutes of writing, the middle school students give me the same standard answers that always give and they’re more than a little interesting. 

The first is usually, “because they save people’s lives” and I always have to fight the “yeah, but they’re not real” response to this one. But, it’s a start. 

I usually get, “because we need to believe in others” which is a nice thought until one realizes that superheroes are fiction and so we have to create people to believe in rather than trust each other.

One student will always answer “because they give little kids someone to look up to” and this year, I told the story of how J. Michael Straczynski tackled a thief at a comic convention because he was near a Superman statue. And, despite not knowing who JMS is, kids seem very impressed by this story.

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Kids Tube Review – Paw Patrol

paw-patrol-post-2

Normally, I’m pretty positive on this site. At least, I’ve been trying to be. I want to talk about the things I love and avoid just being a place to rant about pop culture. However, I also feel an obligation to talk about some things that are less than good.

Which brings me to Paw Patrol. Continue reading

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Music Mondays – My 5 Favorite Bright Eyes Songs

oberst

Bright Eyes is easily one of my all-time favorite bands. No Bright Eyes album is perfect and there are some real clunker songs, but when Conor Oberst is on, he is perfection. Here are my five favorite Bright Eyes songs in no particular order.

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Follow Friday – Monte’s Mayhem

Nick Monte is a really cool guy. He is a supporter of my comic Noir City and he has a podcast about comics called Monte’s Mayhem.

He also hates Star Wars.

Follow him on twitter.

Check out his blog.

Here is his YouTube channel.

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Why I love Arrow

Arrow promo

When Arrow was first announced, I will fully admit that I was skeptical. Green Arrow has always been a lesser version of Batman and only really works when he is in opposition to other heroes. Cranky old liberal Green Arrow is a riot and fun to watch. Young, attractive, bad actor could never make me like Oliver Queen.

Fortunately, Stephen Amell is not a bad actor and the show has created a great DC Universe – something I didn’t think could happen outside of a Superman or Batman TV show.

First, let’s talk about Stephen Amell and how awesome he is.  Continue reading

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Four Color Teaching – Creating Superheroes

In Four Color Teaching, I discuss my experiences with comics and teaching. Today, I will discuss creating superheroes with kids from 5 – 8th grade. 

Every year, the Ozarks Writing Project hosts a youth writing conference for students between 5th and 8th grade. So, last Friday, I skipped out on my regular job of teaching high school students so I could teach middle school students about how to make a superhero. This is what constitutes as a “day off” for me – going from one teaching job to another Continue reading

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Kids Tube Review – Bubble Guppies

Bubble-Guppies

I haven’t always loved Bubble Guppies. At first, I didn’t get it. It takes place underwater, but they’re doing things that can’t be done underwater like flying airplanes and putting out house fires. That’s right, house fires under water. But then I realized two things:

1) This is a show for kids, so I should probably lighten up.

2) I can accept that there are little mermaid kids who go to school where a fish teaches them life lessons, but I can’t accept the other stuff? That’s just dumb on my part.

So, after I got over my initial reactions to Bubble Guppies, I was able to enjoy what is probably the BEST children’s show on today.

What makes it so good

Children’s shows have a difficult balance to maintain between many different realms. In my mind, a good kids show has the following things:

- It is entertaining

- It teaches various lessons including:

- Literacy skills
- Math skills
- Memorization
- Vocabulary
- Basic logic
- Real world interpersonal communication

- It encourages audience participation without being absurd

Some shows can achieve a few of these criteria, but Bubble Guppies achieves all of them effortlessly. It is supremely entertaining, it has wonderful lessons from all aspects of education, and there is participation without being annoying.

Plus, it has incredibly entertaining music such as a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” but changed to “Pencil Case.”

My son likes Dora the Explorer better, but this show is much more tolerable because the characters aren’t constantly shouting at the audience. And though there is a repetitive format in Bubble Guppies, it feels more like a set list of sketches rather than a formulaic adventure.

All in all, it’s a fantastic show and if you haven’t watched it with your child, you should. It’s great.

How to make it better

Imagine that Bubble Guppies exists in a post-apocalyptic world where global warming has flooded the world and we all have evolved into mermaid-like people. This can easily be justified with episodes like “Nobody Nose” which is about the Sphinx missing its nose.

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Music Mondays – 5 Test-Taking Songs

When my students take one of my tests, these are the first five songs that I always play without fail. My thought is that if I play them enough then for the rest of their lives, whenever they are in a situation where they will be tested in some way, they will hear these songs in their heads.

So, in essence, maybe I’m trying to brainwash them a little.

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Follow Friday – Nathan Judah

Nathan is the artist for issue 2 of Noir City and he is fantastic! He’s super great to work with, a wonderful artist, and a good friend. Be sure to check out his website, his twitter page, and our Noir City facebook page.  Check out Nathan’s art below.

coverforge cover art 2014-03-16 140517-2Mariopages 5 and 6

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