I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Comics universe, so I was eagerly awaiting the premiere of Agent Carter after the first of the year. Finally, this under-developed character was going to become more than Captain America’s unrequited love interest! We were going to really get to know the enigmatic Agent Peggy Carter! What I *didn’t* expect was eight lessons in pedagogy, community and school change.
1. Don’t let the jerks get to you. In every field, in every job, there are badly behaved, ignorant, fearful, condescending…well, you get the picture. They’re there. They’ve always been there. Don’t let them beat you, don’t let them decide your fate, don’t spend too much time railing against their idiocy (because you can’t change them), just go around them. The best revenge is being right, you know?
2. Ask for help- or at least accept it when it’s offered. Jarvis. Oh, Jarvis. Not just a butler, a willing ally able to anticipate where help is needed before our dear Peggy is able to ask. Learning that there’s no single person who can hold the whole world- that we all need help and that there’s no prize for doing it alone? That’s a lesson I’d love every single teacher, principal, and student to learn.
Know how to use the tech you have- even when it’s not ideal. Got a watch that can help you bust into a safe (or at least count your steps and measure your heart rate)? A Smartboard that ALWAYS works? Great! Learn how to use it- really use it- before you need it. Same with your smartphone, the 2 iPads the library has available or the ancient flip video camera you have in the bottom drawer of your desk. You can’t use them if you don’t know how they work- and you can use them more creatively and effectively if you do.
3. When push comes to shove, a stapler is as a good weapon. Sometimes low-tech works. Don’t be ashamed to pull out the overhead projector, use paper and pencils and scissors and glue if they’re the right (or most expeditious) tools for the job. Just because you have the fancy gadgets doesn’t mean their use is always the most effective.
4. Problem solving is a seriously badass skill. We don’t give problem-solving (especially when it’s done on the fly) nearly the props we should. As any teacher who’s ever modified a lesson plan on a moment’s notice (read: every single teacher ever) knows, thinking creatively and quickly to use what you have is a serious superpower. Give yourself credit when you do it. Serious credit. MAD credit.
5. Feelings, man…Grief, frustration, loss, anger- they’re all real. Now, whether you’re mourning the loss of Captain America, lost at the bottom of the sea in an effort to save the US from destruction, your favorite project because the school has allocated that time for RTI, or changes in the profession that feel too big to bear; we’re all dealing with feelings all the time and they can get in the way. Know how to put them aside and focus on the things you can change. Action is good medicine.
6. Make friends who aren’t secret agents. You’ll need them. Make connections outside of school. Have conversations that have nothing to do with education, school, or students. I’m not suggesting you move into a women-only hotel on the upper east side, but maybe join a book club or take yoga or find someone to play D&D with.
7. Have one really great hat. Okay, maybe not everyone can pull off a little red hat, but have something that you can put on when it’s cold and dark and you’re tired and you feel like there’s just no way you can pull yourself out of bed because it’s February and it’s cold and it’s Wednesday. When you look fabulous, you can do great things.