October 6, 2010 by Willy Cardoso
I’m very much in favor of a having a handful of analogies and metaphors as means of portraying our lives. Recently, I’ve also grown very fond of metaphors regarding teaching and learning and other things related to education, from doctorate studies – such as the talk my compatriot Chris Lima gave at IATEFL Harrogate this year with thoughtful historical background, from the gods of the Olympus to Adam and Eve being kicked out of paradise – to blogposts such as the one Paul Braddock wrote yesterday comparing coursebooks to running shoes, and such as my forthcoming post comparing coursebooks to condoms.
A good creative exercise is to ask your students or trainee-teachers to create a metaphor for the classroom they’re all in and discuss the similarities and disparities of the metaphor, you can also ask them to draw it (I saw that in the Chris’s workshop mentioned above). You’ll be amazed by how each one feels and puts oneself in the learning context. From science labs to national parks you’ll witness a great exploration of awareness, creativity, identity, and all those beautiful words we so much adore.
One common example I’ll illustrate here is the idea that the classroom is a ship, students are the crew and the teacher is the captain, which frankly is not at all a new metaphor and it’s not one I live by for sure.
However, I thought I could amuse you for a moment with the following.
(I have put my analogies in green)
He had bought a large map representing the sea, (map=coursebook / sea=second language)
Without the least vestige of land: (land=first language)
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?” (grammar terminologies)
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply,
“They are merely conventional signs!
“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank”
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best –
A perfect and absolute blank!” (a blank coursebook! yeah, that’s right!)
Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark
If we are attentive enough,we’ll be able to co-relate basically anything in life, whether it makes sense or not to other people, I think we shouldn’t care. Metaphors are first and foremost Art.
Art is singular, subjective and highly personal. Hence, it should be present in any form in any classroom.
And you, what’s your favorite metaphor for your classes? I’d love to hear about it.