Metaphorical Tradeoffs

Entering the EAGALA arena is entering the land of metaphor. It is this journey into the world of metaphor that allows me to take my Elementary Science Methods students from inner city Hamline University into a collaborative relationship with 1000-pound 4-legged partners in a rural horse arena.

Ten of my graduate students recently joined me on a crisp Saturday morning exploring the art of teaching at Cross P Ranch. The equine collaborators become metaphorical students as my two-legged teacher-candidates ventured into the arena to get to know their four-legged students. How did they behave? What did they like? What interests did they have? What quirks? How do we enter together into relationship? Their goal was to get to know their students sufficiently to plan a developmentally appropriate activity to engage them.

They found any and all early expectations quickly fell away. The student that looked approachable ran off as the teacher came near. The one that appeared intimidating came a bit too close a bit too quick. Another completely ignored them. Eventually a gentle stroking across the contour of their backsides allowed them to make a connection. Things were looking good – until the teacher candidates began to move into their (loosely) planned activity. Turns out being outweighed by some 800 pounds has a distinct disadvantage. After repeated unsuccessful attempts one teacher candidate picked up a halter on the fence, looped it around a student’s head, and established an effective communication link between them. And off they went.


At the end of the session, we reflect on metaphors that emerge. One of my students shared a powerful observation. Based in an environment of trust and respect, we are willing to make a tradeoff – agreeing to a level of defined structure for access to the privilege and freedom of the larger world. In the arena, if the horse is willing to accept a halter, they are able move in graceful harmony with their human. Similarly, once we establish a learning environment built on trust in our classrooms, we ask our K12 students to make a tradeoff agreeing to a level of defined structure (the rules of the classroom) for access to of all the classroom has to offer. They have the freedom of input into the shapes and contours of their learning tasks. They have the freedom of movement around the room with access to the full array of learning materials. Living peacefully in the arena of civilized society requires us to be willing to make these tradeoffs. Works for me.


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About wlindquist

I'm a career educator currently teaching pre-service teachers at Hamline University - Master of Arts in Teaching program. Interested in science education, inquiry-based science, and the intersection of science and literacy.
This entry was posted in Becoming a science teacher, EAGALA, Education, equine assisted learning, The Art of Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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