Today’s post will be the first in a series of six appendices (modeled after Tolkien’s) which will appear over the next six weeks, as summer counts down towards a new journey when school resumes in September. When my students finished reading Lord of the Rings last month, we celebrated our completion of the book with a “wrap party”. Though my little dwarves are, no doubt, enjoying their summer playing with friends and possibly even reading The Silmarillion or Tolkien’s appendices; I have not yet had an opportunity to reflect upon lessons learned throughout the journey and adjustments that may need to be made for future journeys.
As I write this post, I am “leaving on a jet plane” to return home from a very enjoyable weekend presenting at Mythcon, the 44th annual convention of the Mythopoeic Society (http://www.mythsoc.org), which was held in East St. Lansing, Michigan, on the campus of Michigan State University. The Mythopoeic Society is a non-profit organization devoted to the study of mythopoeic literature, particularly the works of members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the “Inklings”. Tolkien was a member of The Inklings, as well as close friend C.S. Lewis.
In no other social circle is Tolkien more welcome than among the many members of The Mythopoeic Society. I was invited several months ago by a member of the society, fellow Tolkien blogger Jason Fisher (http://www.lingwe.blogspot.com), to share my work with Tolkien and ELL (English Language Learner) students at Mythcon. Though I was unfamiliar with the organization at the time, I jumped at the chance to share my work with a larger Tolkien community.
Giving educational presentations is nothing new to me as I have presented at many conventions over the last few years pertaining to my work with adapting Shakespeare’s works for use with second language learners. I was a bit apprehensive about sharing my work with this community though because I knew my primary audience would not be teachers and I would be among Tolkien experts, which I would never presume to be. I was slightly intimidated by the fact that so many Tolkien scholars and published Tolkien authors would be in attendance. I was even a little awe-struck that I would have the opportunity to meet Janet Brennan Croft, editor of Tolkien and Shakespeare, a recent collection of essays I devoured on shared themes and language between the two writers, which was the subject of a recent post I wrote for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (http://bloggingshakespeare.com/tolkien-and-shakespeare-an-unexpected-discovery).
Once I attended my first session at the conference, I began to feel a part of the greater Tolkien community, which I had only thus far experienced through the online Tolkien network. I was thoroughly welcomed by all I met and enchanted by the wide variety of activities and interesting subjects shared by my fellow presenters. I was pleased that my presentation was well-attended and encouraged at the supportive remarks I received from the attendees and organizers of the conference.
The literary journey my students and I completed this year was arduous at times, leaving me to question whether or not the trip was worth it. We faced ridicule from those who did not believe ELL students were capable of comprehending a difficult book like Lord of the Rings, and at times, our own self-doubt. My students and I last met exactly a month ago, yet presenting at both Mythcon and the Folger Shakespeare Library (http://www.folger.edu) in that time, has left me little time to think about the future of Teaching Tolkien.
If I dare to dream, my hopes for Teaching Tolkien are to build upon the existing site to create a useful resource that other educators may call upon if they care to teach Tolkien, a place on the net where Tolkien fans can come together and support future Tolkien enthusiasts, and to develop teaching materials and a book based on the lessons I have learned. The supportive comments and feedback that I received at Mythcon have encouraged me to pursue these dreams and I look forward to sharing this developing project with our readership, which has significantly increased as a result of this conference.
I’m sure I will manage to squeeze some relaxation time into the remaining six weeks of summer, too, but I am looking forward to writing about my reflections on the journey and sharing them with all of you. Although my bags are packed and I’m ready to go, I will not soon forget the wonderful friends I met at Mythcon and the opportunity to take Teaching Tolkien on another journey.