Learning kebab, anyone? The worst teaching metaphors

A recent tweet from teacher and writer Kate Clanchy has highlighted some of the worst teaching metaphors, from 'learning kebabs' to bicycles

Catherine Lough

A kebab  - the perfect lesson metaphor?

As a profession, teachers are uniquely attuned to the power of metaphor. From hot air balloons presenting addition and subtraction, to Point-Evidence-Explain paragraphs reimagined as a juicy burger, finding imagery to summarise difficult content is part and parcel of the job.

In the case of professional development, however, the use of teaching metaphors can veer into self-parody – more David Brent than Dickens.

Teacher and writer Kate Clanchy recently started a Twitter thread of the most ridiculous metaphors, having been mystified by pictures of fried eggs on the walls of one school.

The replies did not disappoint. If an English breakfast seems too tame, teachers could always try planning lessons using the "learning kebab", complete with a hook to grip pupils’ attention, a mere 10 minutes of direct instruction represented by a chunk of meat, followed by plenty of active learning, symbolised, for no apparent reason, by some peppers.

For those of a mechanical frame of mind, the "learning bicycle", tweeted by English teacher Carl Hendrick, is wondrously complex, featuring separate teacher and student wheels of activity, a bell of evaluation and different head and tail winds of community support. Or, of course, teachers could always use the doughnut of resilience.

Clanchy herself is a published poet and novelist who encourages her pupils to use language in the most precise and subtle ways. In 2018, she published England: poems from a school, a collection of nine years’ worth of poetry from pupils at Oxford Spires Academy.

Many of the featured poems movingly explore themes of cultural diversity and belonging. One pupil, 16-year-old Mukahang Limbu, went on to win spoken word competition SLAMbassadors in 2017.

Clanchy would no doubt give any student short shrift for presenting her with work featuring a resilience doughnut or creativity kebab. As the children's writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce notes, such metaphors are very Alan Partridge.

Hopefully, where fried eggs, kebabs and bicycles are concerned, the trainee teachers of the future are safe.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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