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The Impact of Suggesting Ways to Think

kwyly's picture

I want to write my post in response to our class focusing on Olga Broumas' poem "Cinderella". Reading this poem highlighted the various perspectives that always exist and how it is valuable to approach texts and situations in open and respectful ways. Reading the poem with the title "Cinderella" immediately sets up the reader to draw connections to the fairytale that many of us are familiar with already; titles have the power to change the way the text is considered before the reader even engages with it. This poem could be read without the tittle and it is possible that the reader would not associate the text with a Cinderella story. In our group, we discussed how key words like "slipper of glass" and "ashes" give hints to a connection, but also could be read as separate from the aspects of Cinderella we already know. Even changing "glass slipper" to "slipper of glass" changes what readers imagine when they read the poem. The idea of reading Broumas' poem without the title gives a chance to start drawing connections from a blank slate that allows for the generation of unrestricted ideas.

Reading this poem inspired me to think a lot of about the importance of limiting these sort of boundaries in the classroom. The idea of reading this poem with the title applies to the larger idea of telling students certain ideas before they experience something on their own. Obviously, there are plenty of times where it is relevant to provide background knowledge and certain ways to approach material, but it is often most productive and exciting for students to be able to experience something while also having support from the teacher. There are multiple ways that all students learn and multiple ways that each student thinks about the same topic. It is beneficial to let students express their own perspective and allow each of these perspectives to engage with whatever is being studied. This doesn't mean that one perspective can never be highlighted or taught, but it does mean that all students should have a voice that is encouraged and engaged with in the classroom.

This class reminded me of an activity that I completed for my Anthropology of Writing class. For a final creative project we were given very few restrictions on how to engage with what we had learned throughout the semester. I decided to complete a creative activity of writing the same event from the perspective of many different individuals involved. I wrote about kindergarten because it is something important to me that I could engage in where others are also present. I wrote from my own perspective as a student worker in addition to from the perspectives of a kindergartener, a teacher, a visitor, and an observing student. Although my part was not fictional, the other perspectives technically were but also weren't in a way because my real experiences were infused into my writing. Although these perspectives were created in a fictional way, I think this process helped me realize the extremely different ways the same situation can be viewed in. Everyone notices different aspects of the same situation and values different parts of it; I think it is important to work towards helping each individual feel validated int eh way they think while also integrating these experiences to create a intertwined story of learning.

cinderella variations:


alesnick's picture

validating and entwining

I think your principle of starting with different and then weaving common narratives will stand you in good stead.  I also appreciate the Cinderella variations.  

One complexity: even if we take the title off, the poem is not a blank slate.  How to think about inviting idiosyncratic response and still recognizing the power of discourse as something social, shared?