Reflective Metaphors

It has been a while since I last posted here. To be precise, it has been exactly 6 months since my last post here. Wow. I think I am back. I realized that December is my month to start writing (coincidentally, my very first post here was on the same date last year!), and Reflection/Reflective Practices is a topic often on my mind.

I think I like metaphors in teaching and learning process: they help me become more clear about an idea, and oftentimes become a tool for developing an idea further (did I just use a metaphor?)

I also like making lists. The list below shows what metaphors about reflection I came across while reading about the topic, or talking to colleagues.

Layers, layers, layers...

Layers, layers, layers…

  • onions (you can uncover as many layers as you wish, or cut them into pieces)

  • magnifying glass (allowing you to see something more clearly)

  • water, as in a river, or a pond (only still water will show you the reflection of yourself)

  • (a) picture, or camera (letting you could look at the image and reflect on it, ‘detaching’ yourself from the scene)

  • filming (same as in camera but in more detail)

  • a mirror (using more than one mirrors at the same time to see yourself from various sides and angles)

  • a compass (enabling you to stop, look, and discover where you are at that moment and then decide where you want to go in the future)

I am not 100% sure about the original sources where these metaphors appeared first. The very last one comes from T. Farrell’s article Reflecting on Reflective Practice: (Re)Visiting Dewey and Schon.

Besides, there are several metaphors about feedback I came across or used in my training practice:

  • (a) candy on the table (while sharing what you observed or what you thought about various moments in someone’s lesson you are treating this person to candy; the ‘feedback receiver’ can then choose whether or not to pick them from the table, to eat them all at once or save some for later, etc.)

  • a gift (as a symbol of how valuable someone’s feedback can be)

  • a mirror (the person observing makes it possible to have another point of view, or angle on what was happening in a lesson)

I re-read the above and noticed several things:

  1. I often used the word ‘yourself’ when writing about reflection (as opposed to ‘teacher and students’ or ‘lesson’) I think I meant a class in general though. It might also mean that reflection is very personal to… myself 🙂

  2. I used the Mirror metaphor for reflection and feedback (this reminds me how close they are in my own beliefs and practices)

  3. the image I chose for this post is far from being metaphorical at all!

Which other metaphors (about reflection, feedback, or both) do you personally like and use with colleagues and teacher training course participants? (or, which metaphors have been helpful to you personally in your own process of learning and reflection as a teacher?)

P.S. a book by George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By, is one of those I really like and get back to

About Zhenya

teacher educator, evidence-based instruction trainer, PD Coach
This entry was posted in Learning Thoughts, Reflective Practice and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Reflective Metaphors

  1. I don’t know if I have my own special metaphor for reflecting, although I have thought about it on more than one occasion and it is a topic I will explore in more depth one day. The metaphor you shared here that speaks most to me is the river. I love it because it is always moving and reflects my own difficulty seeing the image clearly and staying in the moment. A river is changeable and always the same. To me it is a powerful reminder not to get complacent in my reflective practice.


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment Anne: ‘A river is changeable and always the same’ – exactly! The water in the river itself is different though… just like our thoughts about the lessons, students, tasks, outcomes, etc.


  2. Hana Tichá says:

    I’m happy you’re back, Zhenya. I can’t believe it’s been half a year since you last posted here. It seems like yesterday.

    You chose an intriguing topic for this post. I love metaphors and Lakoff’s book is absolutely amazing. By the way, I think I also use ‘yourself’ a lot in my reflective posts. I deliberately avoid ‘myself” because I find it too self-centred and I like it when posts are potential dialogues. The third person, on the other hand, may sound too vague and it may imply that you exclude yourself (I did it again, see?) and also the reader, which is not desirable in this type of genre.

    Thanks for some food for thought and keep writing!


    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Hana

      Thank you so much for finding the time to read, comment, and encourage me! I was thinking of you while writing this post actually: seeing how you choose images for the posts on your blog tells me that you love (and use!) metaphors. Glad we like the same book!

      I like what you said about writing in the second person (or addressing the reader as ‘you’) helps for making posts less self-centered and more engaging. I do like how a dialogue is created – and what I absolutely enjoy is having the real readers, like yourself, who respond and share their thoughts.

      Thank you for the dialogue!


  3. careymicaela says:

    Welcome back! I’m in the middle of a mini-hiatus myself- at least until Christmas holidays when I’ll have more time to write a blog post 😉

    What a thoughtful post to start up again with. I agree with Anne in that the river is the metaphor that most appeals to me. When I read those lines, I immediately thought of mindfulness and all its associated benefits.

    Hope you are well. Glad to see you back again.


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for your comment, Micaela, and for the warm welcome. Yes, the river metaphor: the river of mindfulness, of awareness, of… I like that rivers can be big and small, long and short – all kinds of rivers, just as all kinds of teachers can reflect…

      Hope you enjoy December, and looking forward to reading your blog next year!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ljiljana havran says:

    I’m happy you’re back, Zhenya 🙂

    I enjoyed your post and liked the metaphors you mentioned here very much. I’m especially fond of the metaphors about intelligence. Intelligence is like a light, so we often say that someone is a bright/brilliant student, we talk about someone’s dazzling/sparkling wit, we can say that someone shines at languages, for example, and that we had a sudden flash of inspiration.

    Thanks for this post, and hope you enjoy December 🙂


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for reading, and for the comment, Ljiljana! I really like your choice of metaphors (all very positive and warm!). Also, I see a great connection between reflection and intelligence (in a sense that reflection help us think and act intelligently, see more connections, etc.)

      Thank you for stopping by to comment, and till soon online. Happy December to you too! 🙂


  5. Pingback: Feedback: Candy on the Table | Wednesday Seminars

  6. Pingback: One More Reflective Metaphor | Wednesday Seminars

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