Classroom power dynamics: Analogy of the solar system

Anyone used to working with young people in teaching/facilitation type roles, will know the experience of the butterflies in the stomach that arises when faced with the challenge of trying to encourage a group to be motivated in the task at hand.   

All eyes staring at you, waiting for you to say something meaningful and worthy of their attention. 

At one and the same time you can feel two opposing forces making the butterflies hop and skip.

At one point you feel the force of being a responsible and powerful sun in the middle of the solar system, planets circulating around you dependent on you for their survival.  If you are too strong or too weak you can cause sickness, and you try to dance the fine balance of being the centre of focus whilst deflecting the rays outwards so the satellite entities that really matter become independent of you.  The sun uses it rays to enable the planets to exisit in their own identities.

And you can also feel like a more vulnerable sun, an interviewee faced with a classroom panel full of interrogators.  Rather than dependent, the panel are expectant, waiting to be impressed, challenging you to be of use to them.  Planets, that rather than pleading with the sun to make their plants grow, they look at the sun and know that the sun needs the planets in order to find meaning in its own identity.  The sun knows that if its rays no longer contains the life nurturing qualities it once had, then it no longer has a function or has any value for the plantes.

An additional, less noticed force also at play, is akin to the circular nature of the law of cause and effect.  Rather than seeing the planets as dependent, the sun knows it needs the planets to cooporate to keep the solar system intact, and the planets know they need the sun to sustain its existence in that same system.  A symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial for each party in that system, but which, a pessamist would say, ultimately exists only to sustain that system.  An optimist would say to look at the richness of ‘life’ on the planets and the unquestioned meaning of the sun – so the system is not a futile entity, it is meaning itself, life itself personified.

If a planet no longer have any use for the sun, the system will regulate itself to let that planet go.  When the sun knows it is no longer of any use to any of the planets, it will burn up and die, and make way for a new system to be made manifest, if there is indeed need for another system to exist.

The butterfly will fly to another sun.



(Picture credit –

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