Teaching: How Buffy Made Me a Better Teacher

We are taking the week to prepare for the start of the school year (Thursday!), so we are reposting some of our older blogs.  


With the announcement that Sarah Michelle Gellar will be attending Star Wars Celebration, I’ve been thinking more about the show lately.  It also helps that it’s been in entertainment news lately because it has reached its 20th anniversary.

When I first watched the show, during the original run, I just watched it for the drama and humor.  Both were top notch, even if the special effects sometimes were not up to their level.  It wasn’t until the second time I watched it, that I realized the brilliance of Joss Whedon.  It amazes me that he wasn’t a high school teacher  (his mother was, though).  He captures high school perfectly.

By this, I mean he captures all the horrors of high school.  “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” showcased a girl (Clea DuVall) that just wasn’t noticed in high school.  When I watched around 2010 it reminded me of what that feeling felt like.  It reminded me that I need to reach every student, not just the attentive and the troublemakers. “I, Robot…You, Jane” was well ahead of its time with it’s stories of making friends on the Internet. At the time of the writing, only real nerds did this kind of stuff, but it still resonates today. “The Pack” might be a little too on the nose with it’s group bullying storyline.  I mean that as a compliment. “Earshot” looks at a student who reaches the point where he wants to commit suicide.

The brilliance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that you can watch it from both sides.  When you are younger, you see it through the eyes of the Scooby Gang.  When you are older, Giles, Joyce, and Angel are you window into this world.  When we met Anthony Head, I thanked him for making me a better teacher.  The show not only gives you a viewpoint to the life of teenagers, but it is written in a way that builds empathy for them.  This is the mistake most shows about that age group make…they divide us from the people.  Most teenage shows have the older people be obstacles or people that don’t have a clue.  Not here.  Giles and Joyce are responsible adults who truly care about those in their charge.  They don’t always understand everything, but they always try. Through them, we become protective of the Scooby Gang.  Because of them, I have become more empathetic to my students’ issues.

Angel even furthers this.  He is perpetually young, but he is the oldest soul on the show.  And because he has a soul, he sees the tragedy in almost every situation mainly because he has seen every situation many times. As a teacher, you often just repeat years.  The students change, but the problems don’t.  Too often, you see students make mistakes before they make them.  This can be as simple as putting off homework or as complicated as choosing the right college/vocation.  We treat high school students as kids because they are, but at the same time, we ask them to decide their future.  The future is always the biggest and baddest big bad.

I know I won’t have time to tell Ms. Gellar all of this.  I am fully expecting to be so star struck that I’ll be surprised if I can utter actual words.  But I had to thank her, and the cast, and Mr. Whedon in some form.  So I choose this one.



ComicCon-ing: A Preview of Pensacon

This weekend Nola Nerd Couple will be attending Pensacon in Pensacola, Florida.  We believe this is one of the best Comic-Cons on the Gulf Coast and in the South.  Perfectly located near the beach and I-10, Pensacon allows for a perfect getaway weekend.

Pensacon is a growing con that always gets great guests.  A few of the guests that we are excited to meet this year are:

Of course, there are plenty of more guests to check out from such series as Star WarsDoctor Who (Strax!), Agents of Shield, and Game of Thrones.

Pensacon also has a great lineup of artists as well. Probably the biggest name in for the artists is Neal Adams whose credits include Batman and X-Men. Doug Sneyd’s cartoons have been featured in Playboy since 1964.  Artists may do commissions so check the Pensacon website, um now, to find out if you need to book in advance.  The artist alley is usually my favorite part of the con.  Not only do we find great things to decorate Nola Nerd Couple Headquarters with, but also the artists are always so nice.  I, personally, love that they found a way to become successful by working hard in a field in which they had some natural talent.  It is always great to hear their origin stories. In fact, the best conversations I have had at any con have always been with the artists.

Besides media and artists guests, Pensacon has a full schedule of events.  There will be tons of panels by the actors, artists, and experts on issues related to comics and comic cons. I personally recommend “Horrible Horrible Horrible Horrible Stereotypes in Comic Book History” on Saturday at 4:45 as my colleague and friend, Bill Plasse, will be one of the presenters (Looks like Bill can’t make it, but the panel will still go on!).  Of course, I always explain Comic-Cons as “jewelry shows for geeks” and, accordingly, there will be ton of vendors there. In addition, there will also be a cosplay contest a short film festivalsci-fi speed dating, and Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company Performance.

We will be taking plenty of pictures and may interview a few artists and convention attendees for our blog next week.  Until then, have a happy con!


ComicCon-ing: Nerds of the World Unite in New Orleans Comic Con 2011

All my life I have been a nerd. Sure, I tried playing it off from time to time. I’ve even denied it on occasion. However, nothing can change the fact that I’m a nerd. It’s in my blood. It’s coded in my DNA. My fiancée is built the same way. Hence, Nola Nerd Couple.

New Orleans Comic Con

Wizard World Comic Con in New Orleans

Recently, I’ve been re-watching Buffy and Angel in chronological order of course. I never made it out of the fourth season the first time around and that’s where I’m currently in my viewing. One day, Cristina asked me who my favorite character was. Spike, I answered. For our Christmas, which was December 19 due to Cristina’s NYC trip, she surprised me with a James Marsters VIP pass to the New Orleans Comic Con.

With the exception of Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World, it had been over a decade and a half since my last convention. At the last one I attended, a Star Trek convention in which the featured guest was James Doonan aka Scotty, I nearly got into a fist-fight with a woman who looked like Newman from Seinfeld over the merits of the fictional writings of William Shatner. In other words, sci-fi conventions are wonderful entertainment.

Billie Dee Williams

The coolest guy in the room imagining what it would be like to be president

We woke up early Saturday morning and heading to the Earnest Morial Convention Center. We got our tickets and went to look for food. Convention food is horrible. If we had more time, I would have suggested Couchon Butcher but we were pressed for time. Dried hamburgers and chicken sandwiches would have to make due. I then got Walter Koenig’s (Chekov from Star Trek) autograph. I went to a panel for James Marsters and realized quickly that this guy gets it. He wasn’t ashamed to be there…why should he be considered how much money could be made doing this? Next up, was the coolest guy in the convention: Mr. Billie Dee Williams. He did confirm that for him, at least, Colt 45 worked each and every time. We then went to the autograph booth and got his picture. Collecting Star Wars autographs is one of Cristina’s hobbies, so this was a nice early birthday present for her. We then split ways. I went to another Buffy panel while Crisitna went meet Adam West and Burt Ward. She recommended Drago’s to Burt Ward but he doesn’t like oysters so I don’t think he took her advice. I wonder if she told him she doesn’t like oysters either. We got more autographs from the Buffy cast and went to more panels.

Kurt and Cristina on the Riverwalk

I’m photobombing my own picture

For supper, we just walked to the Riverwalk. This is when I love living in New Orleans. Other people’s malls have Sbarro’s, Taco Bell and if they are fancy they might have a Ruby Tuesday. I ordered from Mike Anderson’s Seafood. While it’s not as good as the Gonzales restaurant, ordering fried oysters and alligator in a mall is just really (for the lack of a better word) cool.

We headed back to the Con and watched the costume contest. If I were from anywhere else I would have been amazed. Living in and around New Orleans, I wasn’t that impressed. We finished the night with a James Marsters concert (who knew?) and then went visit friends at the Half Moon.

Julie Benz

Julie Benz answering questions about Buffy, Dexter, and No Ordinary Family

Day 2 started with the lovely Julie Benz of Dexter and Buffy fame. She was very chatty when we met her. We met more actors; we looked at and bought plenty of art work. I got to meet David Pirner of Soul Asylum which is when I turned into a true fan boy. I think I hid it well though and just thanked him for the music he’s made over the years.

Overall, it was a great two days and a wonderful birthday present. I loved the fact that the actors were happy to be there. Two of them, Marsters and Koenig, knew the bigger reason for those conventions. They are not for the fans to meet the actors and artists. It’s for them to meet each other. It’s for nerds to get together and enjoy each other’s company.

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig sharing his wisdom