A Metaphor
for Education
By Selena Jane Wilson - Holistic Educator

I am a seed planter

A harvester, A brewer

Sipping and absorbing I give thanks

I become more and more

as I taste what nourishes me

I observe for the thirst I might help quench


Pedagogy is the single event that is teaching and learning. Pedagogy takes Place, and takes us places.

My metaphor takes place in the soil where the fungus and the earthworm are the teacher and the student. Do not assume that it is demeaning for the student to be the earthworm for it is quite the contrary. The more healthy earthworms we have in the soil, the better the forecast for our very sustenance.

The teacher is the fruiting body, emerging from the vast and ancient network of mycelium. The mycelium, which perfectly resembles our dendrite in our brains, represents the connections, relationships, experiences, and knowledge constructed thus far. It is an ever-growing system just as the best teachers are learning and building their inner database. Words and body language are like spores falling into the fertile soil. It is not just what we have our students do, it is also what we do that teaches them. Students also learn peripherally, taking in more than direct instruction. The teachers skills and approaches in the classroom are the enzymes breaking the (subject) matter down into the most basic parts for the students. With the teacher as a guide, the earthworms process these chunks back into whole parts. As the earthworms wriggle through their educational experience, they will meander among the mycelium system and learn how it all is connected; how nothing exists in isolation.

This systems thinking is an important part of education, to get students to see more than just the parts. The mushroom, the fruiting body part of the fungus, emerges and then recedes back into the earth for renewal before emerging once again from another part of the network as needed. This is like the teacher in two ways. 1. The teacher needs to recognize the cyclical nature of their energy supply and the reality of burnout. It is essential to make time regularly for solitude and nourishment, especially in a profession where we give to others all day long. 2. An effective teacher will pop up throughout the classroom as needed, and draw from different skills and knowledge for specific situations.

The wiggly, wriggly earthworm cruises through the dark earth, sorting and consuming that which happens upon their path. They transform the material into nutritious soil to improve the fertility of our world. . This worm metaphor is an important reminder that the student is not just a receiving vessel to store information, but a thinker who will transform what they learn into new ideas that will continue to transform the world. People bring all of their prior experience into each new one, and it is in this way that new ideas and concepts are connected in our brains to become “learned”. As they move through their experiences, they are making connections. These connections, like the dendrites and the mycelium, are capable of branching off into more and more like a fractal, and like the coastline.

Looking at the coastline, as illustrated in Stephen Buhner’s book The Secret Teachings of Plants, is like learning about anything. At first there may be an inkling as to where land starts and ocean ends, but to follow this path one has to meander with the tide and topography. From far away the distinction seems clear between the land and the waters edge, but it is not actually distinct. The closer you look at a thing, the bigger it becomes. It does not become simpler, but more complex the deeper you go. And so the earthworm travels among the framework of the mycelium, with the fruiting body doing it’s work.

Teaching Metaphor

© 2018 Selena J. Wilson

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