Not all my inspiring teachers were real. As we look back on Teacher Appreciation Week, here's a thank you to those fictional teachers of science fiction, fantasy and science who taught me more than I could find in the periodic table.
Master Yoda from Star Wars
Lesson: Corrupt you, power can. Humble, you must stay.
Yoda warned his pupils that the more powerful they became, the more they would have to fight the temptation to lose their soul. Or in Yoda-speak, "When you look at the Dark Side, careful you must be. For the Dark Side looks back." We can think of one great example, and it rhymes with Garth Braider.
Real-life uses: Well, it sure helps explain a whole lot about the presidential campaigns.
Hagrid from Harry Potter
Lesson: Talk to the animals, learn their languages.
We love Hagrid, but his Care of Magical Creatures class was like having your dim best friend who owns a lot of pets teaching you zoology. You took your life into your own hands in a Hagrid class, but how are you going to get to fly on a hippogriff any other way?
Real-life uses: A good reminder to keep loving Torgo the new kitten even though it appears she peed all over the guest-room comforter.
Quincy from 'Quincy M.E.'
Lesson: Always question that which seems wrong.
Quincy was a coroner first, but he also taught police-academy students, only to have them all pass out as he began his autopsy. Quince never signed off on a death certificate, even if he was late for vacation, until he had checked out every angle and was sure it wasn't murder. It always was murder, and he probably should've gotten travel insurance.
Real-life uses: Inspires me to make that call to the kid's dentist and demand to know why they charged $40 for "hygiene instruction" when all they did was hand her some floss.
Walter White from 'Breaking Bad'
Lesson: Science can translate outside the classroom.
Walter White had some issues with morality and legality. But it's hard to knock his science know-how. From making the purest meth in New Mexico to using Etch-a-Sketch powder to melt his way into a warehouse, Walt knows how to make his subject work for him. Yeah, science!
Real-life use: How old is that egg? Drop it in fresh cold water -- old eggs float, newer ones sink. OK, Walt didn't teach me that, but I have had no call to dissolve a body in acid yet. Science!
Syrio Forel, 'Game of Thrones'
Lesson: Beloved Syrio teaches young Arya Stark the Braavosi fighting style known as water dancing, and when the Lannister guards come to kill her, fights them off with a wooden practice sword while she escapes. And in the process he taught her the one lesson all Starks need: What do we say to the god of death? Not today.
Real-life uses: Inspires me not to let the child give up on coding class, or swim lessons, or whatever she wants to quit. What do we say to the tap-dance class that seems to be getting the best of us? Not today.
Professor X from X-Men
Lesson: Celebrate your differences.
Everyone's felt out of place, be it due to teenage acne or mysterious angel wings sprouting out of your back. Professor X took the world's mutants, those who felt the most alone, put them together at his special school and made them a family. Even a wheelchair couldn't keep him down.
Real-life uses: Helps me from unfriending the cousin-once-removed whose Facebook posts could all be debunked by a two-second Google search.
Ms. Frizzle from 'The Magic School Bus'
Lesson: Field trips are the best school days.
Who didn't long for a "Magic School Bus" like the one that animated teacher Ms. Frizzle drove? Her class traveled to all the planets, to a frictionless world, and once got turned into reptiles. Learn by doing was the Frizz's motto, and it sure looked a lot more fun than filling out blue books.
Real-life uses: Reminds me the kid loves it when I sign up to chaperone her field trips, even if they're touring a cardboard box factory a la "The Simpsons."
'Bill Nye, the Science Guy'
Lesson: Science can be fun.
Bow-tied Bill Nye introduced '90s kids to the planets as if they were "Real World" characters, and taught about reptile scales using toenails. And then he went on "Dancing With the Stars." Even smart guys make mistakes.
Real-life uses: Entertained the bored kid and her pal for hours with the baking soda-vinegar-food coloring experiment. Science for the win!