Thursday, May 11, 2017

5 Ways Kermit the Frog is a Great Teacher

It's no secret that Kermit the Frog is one of my heroes. My Twitter handle is @jedikermit, my car's license plate is KERMIT, my desk toys, framed photos and magazine covers and artwork--I'm a fan of the frog. This week is Kermit the Frog's birthday (a matter of some dispute, but May 9 is cited most often these days), and it has me thinking about him. Like I wasn't anyway.

Part of the reason I've loved him -- and many of you have -- is that he's a great teacher. I first met him as a character on Sesame Street, not The Muppet Show or Muppet movies. And on Sesame Street, he was often the role of a grownup among more juvenile characters (you could argue the same for The Muppet Show, actually), teaching other characters and even real actual human children. There are five things in particular I love about How Kermit Teaches, that I think we can all learn from:

First and foremost may be Kermit's Vision. It's inclusive, it's optimistic, it's about using entertainment  and education to lift people up and make them happy. It's a good vision. As teachers, if we don't have an inclusive, optimistic vision, it's difficult to do what's best for our students...or ourselves. Kermit's own vision is summarized best in the final confrontation between the frog and Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie:



The second thing Kermit did as a teacher that impressed me is best demonstrated in the Sesame Street News Flash sketches - taking well-known stories and using them to teach. But not without twisting them. Sesame Street has always done this with fairy tales and pop culture, most recently with Cookie Monster's Crumby Pictures. My personal favorite is the Sesame Street News Flash with Pinocchio:




Kermit has come to be identified with diversity and tolerance, thanks to the song "Bein' Green." It's an interesting song, because he goes from feeling isolated and down on himself because of his color to finding pride and self-acceptance in it. There are other strong messages of inclusion throughout Sesame Street, Muppet, Fraggle Rock, and other Jim Henson-produced series and movies. But that all started with Kermit. 



The fourth thing Kermit did was embrace technology. In the early 1970s, seeing Kermit draw in the air with his spindly little finger -- I knew that Kermit wasn't really drawing in the air with his finger, that it was some kind of technology I didn't understand. But he did. And used it. For something as low-tech as a hand puppet (yes I know he's a puppet)(I mostly know that), Kermit and his colleagues helping him out have embraced technology and how to use it with both education and entertainment.




The final reason I love Kermit as a teacher is that he's not perfect. We think of him as sweet, kind, patient -- and he is. But as a teacher, patience has its limits. With Kermit, patience had its limits. A beloved classic Sesame Street clip has him singing the ABCs with a little girl named Joey: 



It's adorable. Because look at that kid. And her giggles. And that little ghostly Cookie Monster. But that moment when he's had it and leaves -- we've all been there as teachers. Kermit (like most of us at some point) has had enough, and leaves. But then he comes back. He forgives her, she forgives him, and they move on. Here Kermit is able to give us a great example of how to lose your patience, and does it without burning any bridges. There are plenty of other times, where, not playing opposite an actual little kid, he takes it further. The frog loses his cool with Cookie Monster, Grover, Miss Piggy, Miss Piggy, ...pretty much every character played by Frank Oz, I guess. Maybe they were having issues. In any case, sometimes Kermit loses his cool. But he always comes back to his friends. I like that he has flaws, but he doesn't let them define him. Sure, he's not infinitely patient. Neither am I. But I can still be a good teacher. 

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3 comments:

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  2. oh my oh my you're so right! And that ABC bit. It's been a long time since I've seen it, but Kermit is soooo human with that little girl.

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  3. Also, I admit to drawing my letter in the air just now, with Kermit.

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