I know what a hammer’s for, but what’s a metaphor?


Working with trades and vocational tutors a lot of the time, means I need ways of communicating concepts and ideas from the world of literacy and numeracy that are easy to understand and don’t sound overly academic. One of the ways I do this is by using metaphors.

metaphor-simileMetaphors are great because they paint a picture. They’re visual in other words. What this means is that people instantly grasp them. What this also means is that it’s an opportunity for me to have a discussion about some of the words we use to talk about language.

So recently, when I was about to embark on one these discussions, I asked my group: “What’s a metaphor?” One of the group, who had been pretty quiet for most of the training, suddenly piped up and said, “I know what a hammer’s for, but what’s a metaphor? Turns out he was a builder…

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about these metaphors and how I use them. I wrote about them previously here. If you can’t be bothered with the link, I’ve revised my original list and added a couple of new ones as well as an attempt at some categories.

I realise that some of these are actually similes rather than metaphors, but hopefully you get the picture (pun intended).

  1. The embedded literacy and numeracy approach
    • It’s like building a house. Hey, they don’t call it foundation learning for nothing.
    • It’s like weaving or raranga. You weave together the various threads of content, literacy, numeracy and possibly other strands such as tikanga or kaupapa values.
    • It’s a system. Each step in the process informs the one that follows. You can do all the steps separately and in isolation to each other, but it works so much better when you make the whole system work.
    • It’s a practice. That’s why they talk about “teaching practice” and call you a literacy and numeracy practitioner. Other vocations that have practices include martial arts, medicine, law, and meditation.
    • It’s a sniper rifle, instead of a shotgun approach.
  2. The process of gaining literacy and numeracy professional development and credentials
    • It’s your toolbox… or at least some new teaching tools to go in your existing toolbox.
    • It’s your kete or basket of knowledge… and the training is like gaining new knowledge or skills to add.
    • It’s like having a new eyes or a different coloured lens that you can use to see the world including your training. In other words, it’s a kind of literacy and numeracy filter on your perception.
    • It gives you superpowers… kind of like Neo in the movie, The Matrix. Neo develops the ability to see beyond the surface layers of the world of the Matrix to the code that lies underneath. This deeper layer (the code) is the literacy and numeracy that underpins your training. Once you can see the code, you can manipulate your environment.
    • It’s like starting a mini-apprenticeship. You have to go through all the stages to get from apprentice, to practitioner, to master.
  3. Dealing with the compliance and bureaucracy that always comes with funding:
    • It’s a game… like chess or draughts. What’s your next move? What’s strategic here?
    • It’s a business… what are your key performance indicators? How will you achieve your outcomes?
    • It’s a team sport. How are you going to play? And with whom?

What do you think? What metaphors do you use? Let me know in the comments…

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