This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By MaryLu Hutchins
When approaching a text, one may adopt a closed lens by an expectation of affirming one’s prior world view, a mixed lens which is similar to the ‘condensed version’ in that it doesn’t always actually inspire deep thought, or develop an open lens which is often scary and challenging. Having recently received the attached eight lens format (thanks to Crystal of Central High School, Louisville, KY), I wanted to analyze aloud how this tool can help me grow.
I am currently on my fourth read of Miles Morales: Spider-Man and Reimagining the Canon for Racial Justice, a scholarly article by Mario Worlds and Henry “Cody” Miller, published in NCTE Journal 108.4 (2019) pp. 43-50, situated in the University of Florida. The book, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, authored by Jason Reynolds was published in 2017. Miles Morales is Spider-Man, he also happens to be of mixed race, Black and Latinx. While he fights on the streets to save his fellow humans, he also fights for justice inside the four supposedly safe structures of educational institutions.
The Reader Response lens has historically been my often-chosen tool. Building an alternative view in which the anti-hero is portrayed by the teacher definitely challenges all of my history. I have pushed myself to be a true listener to the writing of Jason Reynolds rather that starting to refute the interpretation as a potential dishonor to my/our profession.
Looking through a Socio-Economic lens, I am piecing together perspectives of thought leaders on social and economic justice such as, but not limited to, H. Richard Milner, Zaretta Hammond, Mica Pollock, Jacqueline Woodson, Ta-Nehsi Coates, Ijeoma Olou, Robin DiAngelo, and Colson Whitehead. These authors, among many other learned scholars, write works that affirm humanity while simultaneously challenging ideologies submerged in historically accepted dialogues that do not. Worlds and Cody make these distinctions explicit.
The Historical lens is deeply connected to the Socio-Economic lens in this article as Worlds and Cody address the historical context of racism in wider society that are manifested in educational policy and practices. For me, I am wondering how I can participate in re-imaging the literary canon to address the misconceptions about the human experience. If we deem important literary works as an integral portion of the PK-16 plus educational experience, how do we represent the truth rather than the narrowed perspectives of those who were historically privileged to be the ‘storytellers?’
In considering the Gender lens, I am departing from the views of Worlds and Cody to press on the Marvel dynasty and Reynolds conceptions. I consider all females to be super-heroes, strong, and mighty. So as educators, are we willing to examine how the system of schooling de-humanizes ourselves as learners and how in turn, this impacts our teaching practices?
In the interests of continuing the conversation, I’ll continue to work my way through the four remaining perspectives of Spiritual, New Criticism, Psychological, and Race, as I continue reading and pushing myself to consider situating myself in this conversation about (as Michelle King potentially defines as) a kinder, gentler world.
Excerpts from Eight Critical Lenses through Which Readers Can View Texts
Consider shifting your perspective or viewpoint. What lenses might offer you more insight into the text?
Reader Response Lens
Definition: Reading a text for personal meaning
In what ways is the text different than your life? How has the text changed your worldview?
Definition: Reading a text for its socio-economic issues
What world view does the text represent?
Definition: Reading a text for its contextual significance. This would include information about the author, his or her historical moment, or the systems of meaning available at the time of writing.
Upon reading the text, how has your view on the given historical event changed?
Definition: Reading a text for its gender related issues or attitudes towards gender. The assumption here is that men and women are different: they write differently, read differently, and write about their reading differently. These differences should be valued.
Observe how gender stereotypes might be reinforced or undermined. Try to see how the text reflects or distorts the place men or women have in society.
Definition: Reading a text for it issues of race, heritage, and ethnicity.
Analyze the text for how it deals with cultural conflicts, particularly between majority and minority groups.
Definition: Reading a text for patterns in human behavior. While everyone’s formative history is different in particulars, there are basic recurrent patterns of development for most people.
Think about the broader social issues the text attempts to address.
New Criticism Lens
Definition: Reading a text for the unity and complexity of its form. The focus should be on the text itself.
What is the great strength -- or most noticeable weakness – of the text?
Definition: Reading a text for its spiritual issues
What does the text say about Grace? Love? Forgiveness? Hope?
MaryLu Hutchins, Ed. D., NBCT, served most of her career as a public school teacher and is a graduate of West Liberty University and West Virginia University. She served as WV Teacher of the Year, was honored by the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science, was a member of the WV Jobs Cabinet, and served on the WV Ethics Commission. Hutchins is lead member of the Data and Technology Project (not a project) Team and collaborates with Cohorts 1, 2, 3, and 4. She is a WV Education Alliance Board Member. Most importantly, Hutchins teams with the WVDE and outstanding educators in facilitating the professional learning of classroom educators seeking National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification.