Teaching is like…

Brad Patterson felt the ELT Blogosphere was a bit quiet these days and decided to shake things up a bit by proposing a new blog challenge:

What is you teaching metaphor?

The challenge is very simple: share your “Teaching is like…” metaphor. As many things in life, despite its simplicity, the responses can be very thought-provoking and revealing – not to mention entertaining. We all seem to think for the answer to that question in our personal interests – other than ELT. Brad compares teaching to surfing and some of the people who left comments to his post say teaching is like reading a good novel, Latin dance, catching fireflies and jogging.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t choose just one thing to make the analogy, so I thought Brad wouldn’t mind me having 2 metaphors. Especially because each relates to different aspects I see in teaching. So here is my contribution to the challenge (which – shockingly – are two of my favorite things) – teaching aspect of the analogy in italics, between parenthesis:

I have a thing for red shoes… (by miss karen on Flickr – CC )

Teaching is like buying new shoes. As soon as we buy them, we are all exciting and we can’t wait to start wearing them. (In the beginning of a new term we are all excited about our new groups and students, we want to get back on, start teaching again.) But the first time(s) you wear a new pair of shoes they may be tight in certain spots, they may hurt your feet and you might end up the day thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”. (Starting to teach a new group of students many times means getting a group you don’t immediately hit it off with, they may bring difficulties and the excitement of a new semester soon fades and is replaced by routine and lots of work. And you are soon thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”)

However, with time, as you wear that sparkling new pair of shoes they start loosening up, adjusting to your feet. And they become comfortable. (As the term rolls on you begin to know your students, they start to know you and your teaching style. Adjustments are made, you learn how to prepare and deliver lessons that work with each group. And things are not as bad anymore. It might even be fun!) Ok… there are those that you still need to put a little band-aid on that one spot that keeps hurting and you sigh with relief when you take them off. (Eventually there may be those students / groups that never get to the “comfortable” level, and that make us do our job but look forward to the end of the term.)


I strongly recommend pilates as a way of keeping fit

Teaching is like doing pilates. It may seem easy to someone looking from the outside – gracious, slow movements. (Many people seem to think teaching, and may I say in particular teaching a language, is a very easy thing to do. You just present the structures and correct the students. Right?) But once you are the one on those straps, bars and huge balls, surrounded by springs and bands you see your first impression was not accurate. It is hard to keep the movement slow – it takes twice the strength of doing weights in an automatic way. (Once you’re in the classroom you realise there are many ways to “present” the language; that it’s not enough to just correct when the students make a mistake. You’re surrounded by different students, different needs, new techniques and tools to be used, long hours… It is hard to do everything and see learning take place.)

Some exercises and movements in pilates can be quite challenging. Coordinating different – sometimes quite complex – movements to be done at the same time by different parts of the body while also concentrating on your breathing can seem impossible. (Sometimes as teachers we feel overwhelmed by all we have to do in order to effectively doing our jobs. And many times we feel we can’t make it. Sometimes we feel there is no way we can teach a group of 15-20 people from different backgrounds, different levels, different interests. How can we tend to everything and everyone at once?) But once you start developing your muscles and they develop a memory – yes, muscles have memory! – and the movements become effortless, natural. You become motivated by your progress, you start to see the benefits of the exercises and they become worth it. (Once you become a more experienced teacher, things and procedures take less time and work. You start to see the results of your work: a student that gets a job or a scholarship, another one that travels abroad and can effectively communicate and get around… And you see the value of what you do.)

So, teaching for me is like buying new shoes and doing pilates. What is your metaphor?

32 comments on “Teaching is like…

  1. Fab! Thanks for sharing, love the thoughts. Oh and p.s. also loved the shoe pic, gorgeous shoes! 🙂 Hope you’re having a great day, Lizzie. xx

    • Haha! Women and their fascination for shoes – especially red ones! Thanks for the feedback, Lizzie! And what is your metaphor? 😉
      Having a great day, indeed. Hope yours is too. 🙂 X Ceci

  2. Love it, CC. Merci 4 taking up the challenge and “shaking things up”.

    I just bought a pair of new shoes for the first time in 3 years… and yes, alas, the excitement is quickly wearing off 😉

    • There you have it! A sentence you will hopefully never hear coming out of my mouth: “just bought a pair of shoes for the first time in 3 years…”. Hope it starts adjusting soon, B! Remeber bandaids can help! 😉

      My pleasure to take up the challenge, B. Thanks for thinking of it! Still thinking of the second question 😉

  3. Very relevant comparisons, Ceci. =)

  4. […] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } cecilialcoelho.wordpress.com – Today, 12:45 […]

  5. […] background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } cecilialcoelho.wordpress.com – Today, 12:46 […]

  6. At first I thought I wouldn’t relate to any metaphors related to shoes (buying shoes is very difficult for me, nothing is comfortable!) but you put it so beautifully that I identified completely! Pilates worked for me right away, I’ve done that!

    • So glad you could relate to them, Naomi!!! I have problems buying shoes too – though I have to admit I end up buying shoes that are not so comfortable but rather very pretty :-)))
      Ceci X

  7. Mark Collins says:

    Hi Cecilia,

    I like your two comparisons – but that’s what they are, not metaphors. “Teaching is like…” is a simile.

    Thanks for your blog 🙂


    • Hi Mark 🙂

      Maybe the phrasing could have been better put, but I still see them as metaphors. The Macmillan online dictionary defines a metaphor as “a word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities”. I believe that’s what I did 🙂

      Thanks for the pointer, though – I actually went out to make sure I really understood what a metaphor was 🙂


  8. […] let’s have a normal life  and buy shoes and do pilates  next school year Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  9. shahram says:

    Great metaphors!
    They best describe the realities of teaching. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  10. sundae says:

    do you have other metaphors and simile for the teaching profession?

  11. TEACHING IS LIKE a pen, writing important words and thoughts to be share with others, others learned and also the owner. Though the pen is stable, there are some trials or the end of time, while the pen writes and writes the ink is getting empty. When the ink is empty it is the end of the journey. It is vacation because it is the role of the pen to write, also a mission, it helps the owner to be learned also with the readers to become more human and give them a better future. It is a profession because its gives the professional quality of the owner and the readers.

  12. […] also enjoyed Lemos’ blog post titled “Teaching is like…” which compared teaching to buying new shoes.  I thought this was excellent because the “teaching […]

  13. […] Teaching is Like….- Cecelia shared the proposal of a fellow blogger Brad Patterson.  He wanted teachers to finish the […]

  14. […] Teaching is Like….- Cecelia shared the proposal of a fellow blogger Brad Patterson.  He wanted teachers to finish the […]

  15. […] recently read Teaching is Like… on one of my favorite blogs, Box of Chocolates. In this blog, Cecelia responds to a blog post by […]

  16. […] This whole post was all about the authors search for an interesting yet accurate metaphor for what teaching is like. After discussing the difficulty of coming up with a metaphor the author came up with two. Teaching is like buying a new pair of shoes and teaching is like doing pilate workouts. Neither of these activities do I do frequently if ever. However I do recognize the importance of coming up with a metaphor to describe teaching. However seeing as how I’ve yet to enter the teaching field, only time will tell what I determine teaching to be like… […]

  17. […] this year, Cecilia Lemos talked about teaching metaphors. A teaching metaphor is comparing something that you like to teaching and how it relates to […]

  18. […] this blog, the author talks about how teaching is like buying a new pair of shoes.  At first you love them […]

  19. […] you never know what you’re going to get :-)”. This made me laugh so I had to read it! Here is the link for the specific blog post that I […]

  20. […] I read “Teaching is like…”, I was reminded, yet again, that teaching is not as easy as people think.  Cecilia Lemos was […]

  21. […] This blog surprised me by the way the author found two unlike items and compared them to teaching in many ways. They were also ways that were very relatable to me as well. […]

  22. […] to 11 Questions from the 11 Blog Challenge DED 318, Block A December 23rd, 2013 Box of Chocolates […]

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