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Why are metaphors useful in teaching?

Metaphors are useful in making the complex simple and enable teachers to describe the complex task of teaching so others can understand it
© University of Reading

Being a good educator is knowing who you are and understanding yourself. This very much applies to the staff who have supporting roles within schools too, and metaphors are a useful tool in helping you do this.

Metaphors are comparisons between two unrelated concepts, in which one thing is said to be another. For example, “food for thought”, “the world’s your oyster”, or “they’re the apple of my eye”.

This isn’t to be confused with similes, which use like or as for comparison. For example, “you slept like a baby”, “as quick as a flash” or “blind as a bat”.

Metaphors are useful in making the complex simple, and indeed in terms of teaching, enable teachers to describe the complex task of teaching so others can understand it.

Teaching metaphors

Using images can help you find a metaphor that can describe you as a member of the staff group at your school. For example, take a look at this image:

A photo of a gardener sowing seeds into soil

© Pixabay

This gardening metaphor is often a popular choice to describe an educator. As a gardener you can be seen to cultivate the ground, laying the foundations ready for young learners to grow.

You create a healthy environment where they can happily grow and just like young plants, you would nurture the students and regularly water, feed and check for optimal conditions to ensure they continue to thrive.

You would recognise that some plants will have different requirements and would tend to this to ensure growth. All of this done with time, care and patience.

Exercise: try it yourself

Now it’s your turn. Take a few moments to look at the following images:

Image 1

© Pixabay license

Image 2

© Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

Image 3

© Photo by The Digital Marketing Collaboration on Unsplash

Image 4

© Pexel license

What do each of these images mean to you as a member of the learning support staff in your school? Being able to think about and discuss this enables you as a teacher to describe topics you are teaching in a way that others can understand it.

© University of Reading
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