How Parking Is Like A Metaphor For Teaching

Winter parking is like a whole new kind of headache for me. I have enough problems getting into the spot when I can see the lines, and so with a build-up of snow and ice and no lines in sight, I don’t have a hope. At our school, we have assigned parking spots. Parking is limited in our lot, and as such, most people are quite protective of their spots. I totally understand. The problem is that I’m the first person to get to school. I set the tone for the lot, and based on my parking skills, this is a very scary thought! For a while, people used to use placeholders to help get into their spots. I happen to have a big sign right in front of my spot … how could I get this wrong? The issue is am I supposed to be to the left of the sign, the right of the sign, or smack dab in the middle of the sign? To this day, I’m really not sure. I think that I’ve tried parking in all of these locations, and yet, I always have it wrong. And so yours truly — Miss Parking Challenged — is on a Parking IEP that impacts on the entire school. The rule: if you can’t see the lines, park in the first spot in your row, going right to left, and then fill in the gaps. For me, this first spot is our principal‘s spot, and it’s right beside this big yellow structure: I can’t possibly mess this up! 

But then there was a day like today. You could see the lines and the numbers — almost all of them — minus the ones for my spot. Okay, I could do this. I’m four spots from the right. I just need to count. So now you need to imagine me in a pitch dark parking lot, counting the spots based on some line outlines and a few numbers: it was kind of like a missing number math grid, and I had to find my number. 🙂  Well, I thought that I did well, until I got out of the car and realized that I was over the line. Attempt #1 — no good! Time for try number 2. I moved slightly over to the left, and yippee, I was in the lines. So I popped my trunk again, but then I realized that I was up far too much. Time to close the trunk, and try for attempt #3. It was the winning one, and I did manage to make it into the correct spot and far enough back as well. So other than an amusing anecdote about my lack of parking skills, what does this have to do with teaching?

  • We need to accommodate for all of our learners. Our wonderful staff has accommodated for me by following along with this Winter Parking System, so that I can find the first spot in the lot, and everyone else can have a spot after that. This was an accommodation that I needed to be successful, and just like in the classroom, small adjustments for certain students can have a big impact for academic success.
  • Sometimes the needs of one are worth considering first. While all other teachers could successfully use our placeholder system from before, I couldn’t, and my needs, were impacting on the rest of the staff. So we changed the system — initially for me — but all teachers have been successful with this new system. Often when we start by looking at the needs of our neediest students first, and put certain systems in place, all other students benefit as well.
  • In teaching, we need to be willing to try again. When I couldn’t get into my parking spot today, I could have given up, but I didn’t. I persevered — three times in total — and eventually I made it work. Often our lessons or activities don’t go well the first time, but as we try and try again, we meet with success.
  • No one system is perfect. Our parking system worked great for us until people realized that I couldn’t park in the snow, and then it wasn’t so great anymore. We needed to consider other options. In teaching, there are constantly new methods to try as well. At one point in time, it was all about direct-teaching. Now more and more people are seeing the benefits of the inquiry approach. “Teaching methodology” is always updating and changing — kind of like “parking methodology.”
  • Change is good. While, years ago, it actually took numerous emails and multiple discussions to make this change to our parking system, now people are embracing this change. They see how many more spots we get in the parking lot, as finding these spots are so much easier for everyone. There were benefits to this change, and there are benefits to many other changes in education. We just need to be willing to make these changes!

Who knew that so much learning could come out of my parking problems? 🙂  What are some good metaphors that you have for teaching and learning? It’s great when the amusing things we do can provide many learning opportunities as well!



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