I have been a teacher all my career and consider myself blessed to do work I love and which I feel I was born to do. There are many metaphors that describe teachers and teaching. I was reminded recently of two metaphors Plato used to describe his mentor and friend Socrates.

He called Socrates both a gadfly and a midwife. A gadfly is a stinging fly that bites livestock, but it is also a person who provokes others into action, often through constructive criticism. Teachers are provokers, people who want their students to be moved to think and act on their own. A midwife is a person trained to help women birth their babies.

Teachers help students birth their own ideas. They are there to help and encourage and direct; they want to pull ideas out of their students, not simply fill them with the teacher’s ideas. These two metaphors seem particularly clear and apt words to describe the teacher’s role.

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