I have been reading Lakoff and Johnson's seminal book Metaphors We Live By in the last week. In short, they argue that metaphors determine how we think and act. If we see an argument as a "war," we will use language and think in ways that are consistent with this metaphor. The argument will be something we hope to "win," and to which we will come "armed with facts," as we "shoot down" our opponent's assertions.
Years ago my wife and I lived in Tokyo where she taught English and I lounged around, recovering from two years in Tunisia where I served in the Peace Corps. My wife (she was not then) had a roommate who was seeing a sushi chef. He worked longer than anyone I can recall knowing at that time in my life. He left early and came home late exhausted.
He explained one time that the philosophy behind much Japanese food was that all the effort should be exerted by the cook so the customer had only to enjoy the bite-sized piece of sushi. I think about this from time to time when it comes to teaching: who does all the work in my class? Am I the one who, like Helen's fiance, labors all day and night so that my students do not have to? Are my students, to extend the sushi chef's metaphor, my customers? guests? diners? clients? or something totally different?
We are the metaphors we choose. If you want to change your world, change your metaphor. Don Graves, master writing teacher and mentor to so many, said we should read students' work like doctors not judges.
What's your metaphor and how does it shape the way you think about and do your work?