Maybe the Metaphor Isn’t Right: How You Think About Teaching and Living

Today, I consider the metaphors that come to mind when I think about myself as a teacher, wife, mother, and friend.  In my professional development class, we’re reading Parker Palmer’s “Good Talk About Good Teaching.” He recommends a simple exercise to help us uncover strengths and weaknesses about our practice as teachers. I find so many applications to my whole life.

We fill in the blank:

“As a teacher, I think I’m a _______________.”

Some see themselves as coaches, orchestra conductors, cartographers, translators, circus ring leaders, lightening rods, or even fishmongers. Many see themselves as performers.

Then, we talk about certain teaching situations and ask how one might respond differently based on whichever metaphor governs the situation. If something difficult happens, a coach responds differently from a conductor. A performer will respond one way while a circus ring leader responds another. A drill sergeant would handle a situation one way while a gardener would do something else.

Sometimes, the way we see ourselves limits our responses. We might need to be more like orchestra conductors perhaps.

I fill in the blank for myself as a mother, and the first thing that comes to mind is the word, “Cheerleader.” As a mother, I think I’m a cheerleader. Well, no wonder I’m exhausted trying to keep everyone happy and enthused. No wonder I become discouraged when the energy level sinks in the house. What if, instead, I saw a mother as a sweeper on a soccer team?

Maybe a mother is a spotlight or a gardener or a bridge.

Maybe a teacher is a warm fire to come sit by, an umbrella, a stick of glue, or a travel guide.

Perhaps, if things aren’t feeling right in my various roles, it’s because my metaphor isn’t quite right.

What metaphors come to mind when you think about yourself and your roles? 

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0 Responses

  1. Thanks for the PDF. I'm a teacher and thinking a lot about the art of teaching these days. I'm in my first year of teaching HS after having taught college for awhile, and the transition has been difficult.

    Speaking of being a gardener, one of my favorite songs is “Gardener” by the Rebecca Riots. It speaks of being both the garden and the gardener — we sow the seeds, and those seeds grow within us and become something. It is excellent and much better than I am explaining it here.