Teach like Batman

Posted by on Aug 11, 2013 in Mixes | 2 comments

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Batman Beyond

Laura Thomas at Edcamp Keene asked one of my absolutely favorite questions of the whole thing during her Becoming Badass session (coming soon to a bookshelf near you!): Who are your fictional role models? What are the things they do that help you become a better teacher?

The very first name that came to my mind was Batman. While I think Spider-Man’s morality (“With great power must come…great responsibility!”) has always spoken to me, and he’s always been the most relatable superhero because of his essential humanity (amazing that I would identify with a nerd hiding something amazing, isn’t it?), he still has superpowers that I can never duplicate. If you can help me with that, call me!

However, in the very first Batman comic I ever purchased, Batman 400 (October 1986), Stephen King writes an introduction titled “Why I Chose Batman” that really gets to the heart of why Batman:

Batman, however, was just a guy.

A rich guy, yes.

A strong guy, granted.

A smart guy, you bet.

But he couldn’t fly.

In a world of gods and legends, Batman, a normal guy, stands up and is counted in a way that many heroes with powers aren’t.

Given that, how can we teach like Batman?

Study, study, study

One of my favorite things about Batman is his origin story. No, not the death of his parents, but, in the parlance of the times, “how he came to be!” After the death of his parents and he took the sacred oath over their graves, Bruce Wayne dedicated himself to his war on crime by traveling all around the world and studying with the greatest teachers he could find. Martial arts? Check. Detective work? Check. Technological wizardry? Check. Driving? Check. Batman is always looking to learn from the best teachers around him and will study a new task until he’s mastered it.

As teachers, we too should be life-long learners, seeking out the best, most experienced master teachers we know, and learning everything we can from them. We should learn about things outside of teaching and see how we can bring those things back to our classrooms. We should strive every day for mastery in our work.

Always have a plan

Batman is the man with the plan. Before taking on a situation, Batman thinks through his options and chooses what he thinks the best plan of attack is. Should he he enter by the front door or by the skylight? Which is the most to his advantage? Can he set up the Batmobile so it can come crashing into the building at a crucial moment? Teachers, of course, know the value of a well-planned lesson. But Batman always takes things a step further. He has contingency plans for almost any scenario. If he gets knocked out, his mask will zap you if you try to remove it. If Superman goes crazy, Batman is probably the person who’s going to take him down.

Do you have contingency plans? I’m not just talking emergency lesson plans if you’re out sick, but have you thought through how you’re going to handle it if something goes wrong with your perfectly planned lesson? Batman has.

Use the best technology

Batman has the most amazing gadgets to help him handle any of the situations before him. Of course, he has all the flashy vehicles, but the best thing Batman has is his utility belt, filled with stuff that he can use to help him save the day. Whether it’s smoke pellets, a grappling gun, batarangs, or access to an amazing supercomputer, Batman uses any and all available resources in his mission.

Are you as a teacher taking advantage of all of the tools at your disposal? Like Batman, you should be constantly looking at everything you have and asking yourself how you can best use it, whether it’s a single computer or a 1:1 program.

Be a detective

Batman got his start in Detective Comics, and one of my favorite things about him is how much he uses the power of his mind to solve mysteries, whether it’s the Riddler’s clues or a mysterious footprint that he figures out where its soil came from. Batman doesn’t just jump from finding out a person was kidnapped to immediately rescuing them, but has to solve the puzzle of the crime first.

Good teachers are constantly being detectives. If a student makes a mistake in a math problem, it’s your job to figure out why they made the mistake so that you can then guide them toward the right answers. If a student is having a hard time behaving in class,  do a Functional Behavior Assessment to get at the root of the issue and help them overcome it.

Surround yourself with the best people

Batman doesn’t join any team. He’s on the Justice League, the team of the most powerful, most noble beings in the DC Universe. He’s the best, so he stands with the best. He also constantly proves that he belongs there. He’s also a mentor to some great people with lots of potential like Robin and Batgirl.

What kind of team are you working with at your school? If you’re a connected teacher, who are you connected to? Work at surrounding yourself with the best people you can find, and don’t waste your time on the people who are constantly complaining and not trying to solve real problems. Make sure you’re working as hard as everybody else and proving your worth. You also need to remember to help newer teachers grow and learn so they can also become great teachers.

Do you teach like Batman? Or do you take fictional inspiration elsewhere?

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previous post: 10 Good Ways to Ensure Bad Professional Learning by @criticalskills1 next post: A simple set of #edcamp kickoff slides


  1. Great article! You’ve hit on the reasons that Batman is one of my favorite characters. “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I *do* that defines me,” is what gets me to the gym on a regular basis, LOL.

  2. Love it, Dan! I was a fan of the Batman show back in the 60’s! 😮 I loved the technology, especially the car (yeah, “chicks dig the car”) but the Batcave too. My favorite line is still the Joker’s “where does he get all those great toys?” But I agree, I always admired who he was and that he quietly fought crime, but didn’t want fame or awards for it.


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