The Group

Alumni Advisory Group

The Program

I led a discussion of this poem with a college alumni advisory group, as a Homecoming Weekend event at the college. The theme of the discussion was the relationship between preparation and experience, which worked well for an alumni group.


The discussion was thoughtful and engaging, seemingly for all—everyone spoke. I began by asking people to talk in twos about a time they had prepared for something and found that the preparation wasn't adequate or relevant (an excellent opener for "Learning the Trees" which had been suggested to me by PCR staff). 

I then invited participants to read the poem aloud, alerting them to the presence of words that would not be familiar along the way. 

For the discussion of the poem, I suggested that the poem has three sections: Stanzas 1-3 on preparation; stanzas 4-7 on experience; and stanzas 8-11 on learning. We talked about the key features and feeling of each section in turn. This worked well to help people get a handle on the text quickly and discover their differences of interpretation and experience. The line "Dreadful doubt" really opened up differences of interpretation in the room. What makes the doubt "dreadful"? What is at stake? 

At the end I invited people to think about the ways in which their college preparation had "cooperated and competed" with their experience since college, but we did not actually discuss their responses.

Next Time

I wish I had made sure we had time to discuss that closing question. It would have been a nice way to bring the discussion back to their shared experience as alumni of this college.

Final Thoughts

Great poem and discussion for an alumni group!

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