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Week 9 What character do YOU play? (Bonus)

This week Arcadia is on Spring Break. I am posting a fun optional task. If you missed tasks before, this will count for any.

In any group of kids, I always find at least one dreamer or actor. A girl who keeps "spy gear" in her pockets and insists you call her Kim Possible at all times. A boy who draws an invisible - but definitely blue, and don't you forget it - lightsaber every time he sees injustice. This task is for us to try roleplaying, ourselves. It relates to our discussions of storytelling and games.


  1. What fictional character would you roleplay - as a teacher?
  2. After you pick the character, look closer. What are some qualities that make that character (or that archetype) a good teacher role model for you?
  3. How would your character teach math?

Some kids never get out of character, and others roleplay only when a book or a movie impresses them deeply. As a teacher, I play along - and often have my own characters to play. This creates deep rapport with students, helps me understand them, makes the group a safe and fun place, and allows me to teach math in contexts dear to kids.

As a related resource, here is a recent paper by our class participant, Laura Haeberle. She analyzes teachers as characters in cartoons. I found it interesting to read, and it helped me think the second question in this task. I use Scribd to share papers, because I like its embed tools

My answers to the task

  1. My teacher role model is Gandalf.
  2. Now that I picked Gandalf - why? Let's see... Gandalf works behind the scenes, setting up epic adventures for others. They have incredible character development as a result. He is powerful enough to save the day, but he only acts the hero in very rare circumstances. Most of the time, the real heroes of the story don't even remember Gandalf exists, fully focusing on the tasks. Last but not least, he keeps learning and developing - from Grey to White, with changes in his role and his power.
  3. When I design Math Trek games, I give kids quests and they take off! Here is a short video about it

Task Discussion

  • Keisha   May 2, 2012, 8:49 p.m.

    I'm going to go way back when I was little and this show used to come on. I want to be Eliza from the cartoon show The Wild Thornberrys. Eliza would be a great teacher role to play. She's kind hearted and loves to help those in need. She travels the world and help animals solve problems that they need help solving. At the same time she is helping them she is also learning so much about them. Like Eliza I will meet students from all over the world (maybe; or all over the state/city) and help them with problems they might have with Math. Eliza will teach Math with so much enthusiasm and a positive outlook. She will find unique ways to get to the outcome. Eliza might lead her students through some obstacles looking for the right answer but with her students help they can reach the solution.

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  • Maria Droujkova   March 21, 2012, 8:08 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   March 18, 2012, 4:33 p.m.

    Amanda, your story reminded me of this excellent TED talk about "slide:ology" - the art of presentation. It's a strong digital story overall. But if you go to about 4:40 in the video, you will have a pleasant surprise! I think the point Nancy Duarte makes there - about the audience rather than the presenter being heroes of the presentation - applies to teaching as well.

    I find it illuminating to compare how Jedi and Sith prepare, correspondingly, their padawans and apprentices. That iconic image of Yoda on Luke's back, giving constant support and advice... Jedi stay close to their padawans and teach them explicitly. They go on missions together when they can (Yoda in the original trilogy is just too old for that). Jedi also set up cooperative peer learning for groups of padawans. Sith send their apprentices on dangerous solo missions, and make them compete in winner-takes-all deathtrap scenarios. Of modern math ed research methods, Jedi remind me of social constructivists and Sith of radical constructivists.

    May the Force be with you!

  • Laura Haeberle   March 16, 2012, 10:25 a.m.

    It's funny, I actually wrote (another) paper comparing my teaching style to that of a Pokemon trainer. Although I'm tempted to make the connections once more, I think I have an even better rolemodel.

    1. I'm going to be a bit different and say that Leslie Knope, from the show Parks and Recreation, would be my choice. 

    2. So many of Leslie's qualities would make her a great teacher. She's incredibly organized, and would probably have years of lesson plans completed over just one summer. Moreover, she's dedicated.  Just as she devotes herself to the Parks Department, she would devote herself to the classroom and to the success of each student. She would not stop until everyone was surpassing their imagined potential. Plus, she's quirky, bubbly, and knows how to engage people. I could definitely picture her as a phenomenal teacher. 

    3. Leslie would probably teach math by writing down and objective and then asking the class how they wanted to learn. She would probably arrange an ice cream party and count the scoops of ice cream or work on adding and subtracting through sharing. The kids would be learning without even realizing it. 

  • Kathy Cianciola   March 15, 2012, 6:45 p.m.

    I would definitely like to be Peter Pan in the classroom. The idea that he never grew old meant that he could always relate to children. He had the very heart of a child, and always held on to his "happy thought."

    Unfortunately it is very easy to grow calloused, and begin to forget what it's like be young, and in school for the first time.  School can be a scary place for a child. I want to always remember how it felt to miss Mom, or to be singled out and humiliated by an adult who was careless with words.  I want to be like Peter Pan and tap into my inner child.  I hope that I never lose that sense of empathy which is an important quality in every vocation, but especially in education. 

  • Carolyn   March 15, 2012, 3:11 p.m.

    Before I answer this week's task I thought I would share a story of role playing that actually occured  yesterday when I was teaching swim lessons. I ahve a young boy who is around 5 and we do "blast offs" where they have to hold on to the wall and push off hence, blasting off. Well when I said "3-2-1 blast off!" he didn't move. I asked why and he said I am a pirate ship, your the captain you have to say "ahoy mateys!" and then we can go. I jumped right in and joined him in being a pirate for the rest of the lesson throwing in "arr!" whenever I could. I thought this was an interesting connection to this weeks task becasue it just happened to me yesterday.


    1. If I was a character I would be Professor Mccgonagall from Harry Potter.

    2. Ironically it is Harry Potter weekend on ABC family and I watched the first Harry Potter last night and thought about how much I love Mcgonagall. She is so poised and knows the right time of when things need to be serious an when not. For instance when she lets some of Harry and friends get away with things. I think in a classroom it is hard to find respect from students and find that balance between being fun and serious.  I think Mcgonagall nailed the respect issue. Although that has more to do with classroom management than math I think it would help overall in every subject.

    3. My character would teach math by finding that same balance in  math between fun, games and play, and assessment and learning. I believe play and games are an important part in teaching but assessment and knowledge needs to be learned and concept understood. Therefore my charcater would accomplish this with her balance in respect and fun. 

  • SandyG   March 14, 2012, 5:17 p.m.

    I would be the female Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter.  First of all, I think Dumbledore was very nurturing and cared very much for Harry and the other students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  He led with a gentle, yet firm hand.  Students and staff trusted his decisions and looked to him for comfort, wisdom, and leadership.  These are all qualities that I would like to possess both personally and professionally.  As a teacher, I think I try to emulate his way of allowing Harry to discover answers on his own.  Though he often guided Harry through a problem, he never gave him the answer; rather, he would guide him and allow Harry to deduce and reason the answer for himself.  I like this approach of allowing a student to figure it out themselves-- though never quite alone. 

  • Julia Brodsky   March 14, 2012, 4:07 p.m.

    Haha! We seem to be on the opposite sides of the spectra in terms of power and helping abilities. While you are ready to offer them help behind the scenes, I  expect the students to help ME out... This said, I am rather like Alice in Wonderland. Evertyhing seems slightly wierd.. and I am ready to meet quite strange creatures ( such as my students :) along the way, who may offer quite an unusual and unconventional advice..

  • Kathy Cianciola   March 15, 2012, 11:54 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Julia Brodsky   March 14, 2012, 4:07 p.m.

    Haha...I like this.  Can I steal it?

  • Julia Brodsky   March 15, 2012, 12:19 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Kathy Cianciola   March 15, 2012, 11:54 a.m.

    You are most welcome :)