“You know, it’s like…”

I spent the weekend cycling through Northern England, with an old school friend.

It didn’t rain all the time…

If I were so-minded, I could write you a whole blog post about how this was an analogy to the learning process, or to our professional careers, or something else.

But I won’t.

I won’t, not because I can’t, or because it’s not useful, but rather because during one of the quieter stretches of our ride, when we’d exhausted the catching-up chat and the comments on the beauty of it all, I got to thinking about the place of metaphor in teaching.

As you do. Or, at least, as I do.

It’s a truism to note that all teaching proceeds by metaphor and analogy: we explain the things people don’t understand by drawing connections across to things they do understand. Everything is like everything else, in some way.

However, it’s easy to forget this, to think that we are building radically new structures of understanding for our students with what we do.

But even that notion of ‘structures’ is an analogy: it gives us a visual metaphor for how we can understand this very thing.

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that I found I rather good example of this on Twitter, using almost-Lego:

As often happens with my Thoughts While Cycling, I’m not sure it comes to a whole lot, but if we recognise that this happens, then we can use it to good, or better, effect.

Importantly, it also helps us to be weary of mis-using metaphors, as happens a lot in my other work: metaphors can blind us to things as much as they can enlighten.