Today was a momentous occasion in my classroom, as my 13 limited English proficient dwarves completed the mission they set out to achieve in February. In three and a half short months, these pre-adolescent students have read the entire Lord of the Rings and we have all loved every minute of it. Rather than tell you how wonderful their experience was, I will let them show you by posting the rest of the speeches for the remaining dwarves you haven’t heard from (Balin, Bifur, Gloin, Oin, Thorin, and Fili).
Now that you have heard from all of The Traveling Party, you are most likely noticing how varied each of their responses are. As their teacher, the individual ways that Tolkien impacted them is what pleases me the most. Each child has a different take-away experience that they will treasure from this school year and I truly feel that these 13 children and I will somehow be bonded for life through our journey together. Accomplishing major feats with a classroom of students is a life-changing process for both the teacher and pupils. I know this from my past personal experience with staging a Shakespeare production for a children’s Shakespeare festival, sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. Three years ago, my ESL students and I shed the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to accomplish such a task and were permanently altered people, as a result. Our perceptions of “possible” and “impossible” were completely obliterated and our views on teaching and learning surpassed all limitations. To this day, those students still stay in touch with me, even though they have moved on to different schools, and many have gone on to pursue drama at the secondary level. Though this learning experience was very different from staging a dramatic production, the results were no less dramatic. These 13 children have bonded over books and will hopefully be hooked on reading and Tolkien for life.
It all started with The Hobbit and our journey ends with the timely release on the internet of the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Way past bedtime for a school night, I received the following email late last night from Kili:
“OMG!!!!!! MS.RODGERS THE HOBBIT:THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG TRAILER IM SO EXCITED!!! I SCREAMED OUT OF MY CHAIR!!!!oh p.s sorry im sending you an email im just so excited!!!!!!!!!!!”
Excited to see what is in store for their namesakes in the second film, my students are already planning our next field trip to the cinema to see the film this December. I still find it incredibly ironic that Kili entered the “Tolkien experience” with great trepidation and assured me that no “girl” would enjoy reading about dwarves, elves, and hobbits. By her own admission, Kili is crazy for Tolkien and since we also completed viewing Return of the King today, my dedicated female dwarves were the only ones so drawn to the film that they continued to come for “lunch bunches” rather than go to recess, like the boys.
We ceremoniously completed marking our progress chart and my students requested that we draw an arrow from the ring to Mount Doom, to indicate its destruction in Mordor.
It has been a long journey, but one fraught with amazing moments, which cannot and will not be forgotten. Time may erase many memories, but my students and I will always have ours recorded here on Teaching Tolkien. We could not have made it without the motivation that our dedicated readers and supporters have offered over the last few months.
Though my students are about to depart for summer vacation, we still have one more post to share with you. Next Monday will be our “wrap party”. All of my students are bringing delicious delicacies from their native cuisines and we plan to watch some of Peter Jackson’s appendices, which class time did not allow us to view. They have also requested that I bring in some of my music books and play “that Misty Mountain song” and some of Howard Shore’s score music for the films on our classroom piano. Many of the students have also expressed interest in reading Tolkien’s appendices over the summer and The Silmarillion.
The future of Teaching Tolkien will live on. I’m presently preparing to share my students’ story with the Mythopoeic Society (www.mythsoc.org) at Mythcon next month, and over the summer I plan to post my own appendices, which will include my conclusions regarding our literary journey. I look forward to future journeys with a new band of dwarves and introducing them to the wonders of Tolkien. Stay tuned and keep reading!