The Power of Saturday Morning Cartoons
I loved Transformers as a child. For me, Optimus Prime and the crew were like family. Optimus was the big brother I never had, Bumblebee was like my favorite little cousin, and the rest of the team reflected a fierce unity and loyalty I adored. I was fascinated with their ability to go from being standard cars on the highway to superhero robots ready to do battle with the bad guys. And they were kicking Decepticon butt! I never missed an episode. And although I did not enjoy the Paramount movies like I did the cartoon, I still waded through three of them for old times’ sake.
So what do Transformers have to do with education, you may ask? Simply this: transformation is necessary if we’re going to fight winning battles. In all the versions of the cartoons and films, when the fights with the Decepticons got too intense, Optimus and the Autobots had to change. They were not as effective in their automobile forms. Their most powerful weapons were only available after they transformed. Education is the same. We won’t be at our most effective if we don’t change.
Why Transformation is still Necessary Today
Very few people would argue that we are experiencing some hard times. Currently, we are dealing with a global pandemic, social issues, overworked teachers, and stressed-out students. The battle is intense. However, the system is slow to change. We know that large-scale transformation will only happen over time. Yet, I believe there are some steps teachers can take now to turn the tide: to TRANSFORM their corner of education.
- Transform methods to increase engagement. Try a new teaching method once a week. Try to include more student-centered outcomes. The more the students see themselves at the center of instruction, the more likely they are to participate. Here are some suggestions: https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/student-centered-teaching/
- Transform cultural focus to increase inclusion. Show students their unique stories are seen and heard. When teachers do this, school becomes a place where students feel they belong. This blog article discusses why that matters. https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/blog/instructional-equity-with-zaretta-hammond/
- Transform assessment to increase TRUE knowledge. Tests are a current reality we cannot avoid. However, adding performance and application options can offer a truer idea of what students have learned. Here are a few ideas: https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/alternatives-to-standardized-tests/
Being Optimus Prime
So back to my Transformer obsession. My favorite Autobot – hands down – was Optimus Prime. He was cool. He was smart. He was fearless. He was everything a great leader should be. And above all, he was HUMAN. Well, you know what I mean. Optimus understood and cared about others. He was devoted to his team, saw value in everyone, and was willing to go the extra mile whenever needed. These are things teachers do every day. Even when we’re exhausted, unappreciated, and blamed we give our all for the students. To steal (and alter) a phrase from Tony Stark: We. Are. Optimus. So I want to close this post by saying “Thank you”. Thank you to all the superheroes and superheroines on the frontlines who are fighting for children. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your care. I know transformation is not easy, but it IS necessary. And I believe teachers are the ones to lead the way. In true Transformer fashion, there is more to us than meets the eye. Let’s win this fight!