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How many different analogies for teaching can you think of?

A teacher is…

an artist

a manager

a performer

a politician

a boxer??


And there are probably many more that I can’t think of right now. Teachers seem to love a good analogy, and really we’re not alone in that: David James, an England international goalkeeper, is actually a bit of an amateur artist himself, and compares Wayne Rooney to Salvador Dali. Perhaps a bit more logically, footballers are praised for their artistry, their fleet footwork creating a perfect pass or attempt at goal. Boxers can also ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’.

I think human beings like to draw comparisons to help them understand the world around them and the different people and things in it.

Do you think that we need analogies, and metaphor, to do this?

Recently, Anthony Gaughan has provided us with a number of analogies and metaphors relating to various elements of teaching, both specific to English language teaching but also as applicable to teaching in general.

A teacher in the language classroom is like a boxer, and it’s not just about punching out at all the possibilities that are thrown up in a lesson. A teacher knows when to go for a knock-out punch and properly grapple with students and a language a point (not literally, you follow…).

More recently, Anthony has implored for teachers to just wait a little bit for their parachute to open, or rather giving learners time to process and answer the questions they are posed with in the language classroom. This isn’t just for language teachers, it’s a point that anyone in the classroom who is aware of working memory to bear in mind; and for those that don’t check up on it! Learners might be dealing with complex issues that a teacher might not initially be aware of: dyslexia, for example, is invisible at first until you get on to reading and writing (even then, a language teacher might not think of the possibility of this, thinking that the learner simply is having difficulty with the second language).

These are both great posts by Anthony, and there are even more on his blog that I have to catch up on. But, I bring myself back to my initial question:

Do you think we need these analogies about these issues to do with teaching?

Do they help us think more clearly? Or do they just confuse sometimes?