The Group

A group of University of Chicago Civic Reflection Fellows


We asked questions related to what people were saying in hopes of getting the group to think further about the issues others were bringing up throughout the discussion. We also asked, if it seemed necessary, for people to elaborate or clarify some of the comments they were making, which helped everyone in the group stay on the same page. Our poetry choice helped provoke discussion because it was difficult and ambiguous enough upon an initial reading to necessitate clarification and closer reading.

One interesting part of the discussion was the group’s response to our question of whether they had experienced someone imposing a reality on them. Another interesting portion was the discussion on how people in general and the group members themselves treat people in specific service jobs and view various occupations.

I liked that people started answering the question very personally, and sharing stories about times when they themselves were type-cast and how they’ve dealt with that. I also think the piece resonated emotionally with many members of the group.


The conversation didn’t go how we planned, and handling those divergences and trying to both continue the conversation naturally while weaving it together was something very difficult. It may have made certain group members feel less able to contribute comments. Next time we will try to spend more time in the beginning of the discussion focusing on the text to establish a level of comfort with contributing to the discussion for the participants.

A challenge for me that arose throughout the discussion was my tendency to ask close-ended questions at times that would restrict the discussion rather than allowing for various viewpoints or themes to emerge. Next time I will try to ask more open-ended questions that will elicit more participation or even to ask “how do you feel about comments made or the text?” which come seem more neutral. Finding questions that are relevant but not leading, but also not too general and distant from the conversation, were often hard to come up with on the spot. I think a better group understanding of the poem would have made it easier to ask relevant but unassuming questions.

Opening Activity

We had two opening activities/questions. The first activity was to have the group members introduce themselves and in one word say what they believed to be most responsible for people’s unhappiness.  The second activity was to have the group break off into pairs and briefly share their last experience helping someone.

Discussion Questions

I think the piece itself did a good job of creating its own organic conversation, but I think specifically asking people directly to elaborate on something they had said worked well to keep conversation going.

The opening question about the cause of unhappiness provoked further questions during the discussion. One particular question that we posed to the group early in the conversation was whether they related in some way to having someone impose a reality or image on them, or whether they have imposed a reality on someone else in the past?

Closing Activity

Yes, our closing activity was to have the group, keeping their answer to the opening activity and the discussion we just had in mind, go around and express one thing they thought they could do to bring happiness to someone.

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