Head of School Blog
Susan Tyree Dempf, Ph.D.

The Cultural Iceberg Model of Meaning

This afternoon I sat with Mrs. Renken and reviewed the academic activities of our students as we begin Trimester 3.  Is it wrong for me to say I would love to be a student in the Second Class as they are currently learning about whales? Our students are engaging in a cross-curricular unit of study that includes reading, measurement, art, research and presentation skills. I am excited to visit the South Wing corridor when they outline the lengths of the various species of whales in order to visualize and gain a better understanding of the actual size of these massive sea creatures.

At the opposite end of our campus, the Eighth Class students are reading a classic work of modern American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The class is employing the “cultural iceberg model of meaning” as they consider the surface, shallow (unspoken rules with a high emotional connection) and deep (unconscious rules with an intense emotional level) messages within the text. On the surface level, our students will consider what it means to be southern, the use of colloquial language as well as local dress. Moving down the “iceberg,” they will reflect on having knowledge of the different families within the community, attitudes toward elders in the community and the myth surrounding the Boo Radley house. Lastly, they will tackle the “deep messages” as they together consider the lessons gained from Calpurnia in her role as surrogate mother, the group decision making among the children and the attitudes towards poverty presented by Lee in the novel. I share with you, as a former High School Director, this is an incredible preparation for the study of literature at the high school level!

Lastly, this afternoon we bid farewell to the students participating in our Chinese cultural exchange program. This experience was our first foray into what I hope will be an ongoing opportunity to engage in international exchange, cross-cultural dialogue and to share life at the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Dr. Dempf

March 1, 2018