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Share metaphors and similes that describe teaching adults

Man watering tree representing "aim."
Man watering tree representing "aim."
Fanatic Studio/Getty Images

As any educator knows, teaching is an assortment of wonderful surprises. Perhaps, the best learning happens in the classroom when adult learners actively participate regardless of their skill level. Alternately, teaching is also a challenging profession that demands flexibility, creativity, and patience. What metaphors and similes describe the experience best?

The answers, of course, are as individual as the educators. Yet, there are commonalities among the diversity of educators because at the heart of teaching is essentially this: communication among people. With few exceptions, people are people everywhere.

The following is a short list of different metaphors and similes that describe the teaching experience:

  1. Teaching is like cooking because it takes a lot of preparation before you can sit down and eat.
  2. Discipline in a classroom is like hair gel because sometimes you need a little help to keep individual strands in place.
  3. Learning is a nature walk: sometimes you see the birds and sometimes you hear only the birdsongs.
  4. The classroom is like a kitchen in which some students are better at cooking and some, at doing the dishes.
  5. Planning a lesson is like painting a picture; you might use a little yellow ocher, a little vermilion green, some orange….
  6. Adult learners are like planets; although they are unique, they are still a part of the classroom’s solar system.
  7. When I’m at my worst in the classroom, I’m like the TV character Ralph Kramden of the “Honeymooners” because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t hit that high note.
  8. When I’m teaching at my best, I’m like the jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald—I can out scat the best of ‘em.
  9. Knowledge is like air...enough said.

Want to add other metaphors and similes to the list? Present this activity at a seminar, workshop, or group of educators of adult learners, and then share the creative results here.