Archives For The Lord of the Rings

Part One is located here, in case you missed it.


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Here’s a wide view of the room. I’ve been in this one for six years straight, as opposed to my time at East View, where I had three different rooms in the same span of time.

I have 30 students, plus a few 4th graders that come in for Math every day. It can be fairly crowded at times. Right now the seats are supposed to evoke a Viking mead hall, but I haven’t been able to get my annual Viking Day off the ground yet. It should have been today, as I always try and have it the Friday before Columbus Day weekend. We have new restrictions concerning food in school, which has really taken half the fun out of Viking Day. Because we do things like this:

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We’ll see if I can get an exemption.

Here’s one more look at my bulletin board area. I have a student who has been giving me pictures of different animals with human names like Bill and Sam:

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When the school was built, interior windows were in vogue, so we could monitor activity in the hallway. Now we cover them up to provide a “safer, more secure” environment in case of a lockdown.

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Traveling back in time to the East View days again, one year a fast food restaurant had Halloween Simpsons toys, based on episodes of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes (back when they were good.) Students brought them in and gave them to me. I had a Bart one, but one year my sister and my niece were visiting and she took a liking to him.

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One student has decided it is her job to mark off the lunch calendar at the end of every day. And to occasionally leave me secret messages behind the screen.


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Zooming in on the library, we see some rather worn copies of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and a pre-film edition of The Return of the King. (I really need to update my classroom editions of ¬†The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That might be all that’s left of them.)

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My library could use some work, to be honest. I should be grouping them by genre, labeling them with reading level stickers and whatnot, but it’s a lot of work and I just don’t have the time.

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My old Choose Your Own Adventure books made their way into my class library. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? was my favorite one to read over and over again.


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Peanuts isn’t as popular now with kids as it was back in the day, but they’re still a presence in my classroom. Snoopy on his doghouse was made by my mother a long, long time ago. The beanie toys were a gift from…Kaitlin S, I think.

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Nibbles is a creepy rat who occasionally shows up in students’ desks. Today someone made him a bed during Read Aloud.

This week was a long one, for many reasons, and I had to have a few chats with some of my boys who really don’t know how to make good choices. Forgotten homework, a tendency to goof around and talk at the wrong times, and a general disinterest in school. I have dubbed them “The Lost Boys.”

After we packed up and marched downstairs, and after the goodbyes and high fives, I walked back to my room, exhausted and frustrated yet again with how the year is going. This was waiting for me on my desk.

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I’ll address the missing capital “R” in “rings” on Tuesday. We just took a quiz today on proper nouns. They should know better! ¬†ūüôā

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Ben and Sarah and Emily

October 2, 2013 — 3 Comments

This is one of those posts that talks about how awesome life can be.

I wish I wrote more of these. But I’m mostly tired and cranky these days, so occasionally I get sentimental and reflect on some of people I’m lucky to know.

When they write the book on me, I hope they give a good chunk of it to a couple of kids named Mike and Liz. Mike and Liz just had their first baby together.

Mike and Liz were both former fifth grade students of mine, too. That’s the awesome part. I talk about them all the time, and tell their story often, but I felt it important to lay it down properly.

I came home for their wedding last year. A year ago almost to the day, I think. Last minute thing. Didn’t think I’d be able to make it back from Dublin, but things worked out and I got a chance to get this picture taken:

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Liz I met first. My first job teaching full-time was as a 4th grade teacher at East View. Liz was in that first class. Liked to do theatre. Used to give me pictures of her dressed up in costume from her plays. Here she is helping me pack up the room at the end of the year.

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I moved up to fifth grade next year, and Liz came along for the ride. There was a new student to East View that year named Mike. Here he is with his D-Day project he made. “A BECH ASSAULT.” Mike, we need to talk about your spelling, pal…

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Fun Fact: The blond girl behind Mike? She just got a job teaching first grade in my building. So now we’re co-workers.

That summer I started a theatre company for the park district, and Mike and Liz both joined up. A couple of years later I wrote my first, full-length play, and they starred in it. The Last Dance, about a group of junior high friends. Loosely based on my own youth.

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(There are way too many people that I love dearly in this photo, but this is for Mike and Liz, so I’ll just stay focused on them. But hey, Renee and Freddie!)

Five years later, after many shows and even some ups and downs, we did one final one together. They played Ben and Sarah again, the same characters from The Last Dance. It was about goodbyes, and a journey. Most of my plays are about goodbyes and journeys.

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(From left: Mike Arney as Ben, Liz Husted as Sarah, Freddie Zimmer as Stuart, and Kim Skibinski as Amanda. All former fifth grade students of mine.)

Shortly before Liz had their baby they stopped by my house to drop off some paint supplies I had lent them while we were painting their new house. I was making dinner and invited them to stay. We told stories and quoted The Simpsons, as we’ve done for over ten years. We talked about baby names, and of our fondness for simple, traditional names like Sarah, Elanor*, or Kate.

Last Wednesday Mike and Liz welcomed their first child into the world. And they named her Emily. Perfect.

*I recently decided that had I ever a) bothered to start a family and b) really embraced my nerdy love of The Lord of the Rings, I would have wanted to name my daughter Elanor.

There and Back Again

December 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

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Of course I’d finish this with a Tolkien reference.

To know me is to know my long love of The Lord of the Rings and my ability to connect any and all parts of my life to moments from Tolkien’s works. It’s been almost 30 years now since we were assigned The Hobbit in school, which I tore through in a matter of days and was halfway through The Two Towers by the time the class finished the book. I suppose I’ve outgrown certain parts of the story: the magic and the monsters, mostly, although I still dream of owning my own Hobbit-hole someday.

What stays with me are the small moments, mostly about travel: Bilbo quietly slipping away into the night after laying down his burdens; Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin on the road, heading out of the Shire; the weather-stained clothes and long legs of Strider appearing in a corner of the Prancing Pony. And of course, the idea of regular, small-town folk finding themselves forever changed after going on a great journey.

I’ve traveled quite extensively over the past ten years or so, but after the wandering was done I always came back the same person, to the same town, to the same job. A friend of mine would always say she hoped I would find what I was looking for, after heading out on another one of my solo journeys. I don’t think I ever did, because I was never really sure what I was supposed to find. I was always happy to return home to my friends and family and familiarity.

He lived alone, as Bilbo had done; but he had a good many friends, especially among the younger hobbits.¬†Frodo went tramping over the Shire with them; but more often he wandered by himself, and to the amazement of sensible folk he was sometimes seen far from home walking in the hills and woods under the starlight. He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. He began to say to himself: ‘Perhaps I shall cross the River myself one day.’ To which the other half of his mind always replied: ‘Not yet.’

It took me a long time to finally cross the River myself. And the last six months certainly weren’t as dramatic or traumatic as Frodo’s journey, and there are others out there that have seen and done far more than I ever did while in Dublin. But it is no small thing to pack up your entire life and start over in a faraway place. For a while I thought I was heading over there for good, but reality and practicality have brought me back home once again. In my last post, I wondered what that would be like, and after being home for a week or so, I think I’ve answered my own question.

In the book, the four hobbits return to a Shire badly scarred by the War of the Ring, something the movie altered for a simpler ending. While I prefer the book’s version of events, the idea that Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to a place completely unchanged has a different resonance now with me. They sit in the Green Dragon and toast each other and no one else has any idea what they’ve been through and how it’s forever changed them. And try as he might, Sam will never be able to convince the people of the Shire that he’s seen an Oliphaunt.

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This is the 40th post, and the last of the tales of my adventures there and back again. Tomorrow I turn 41. Normally I gather together friends and family at a local establishment and we eat and drink in honor of myself. Tomorrow I will probably just go for a long walk. But if I had my way, I would throw some essentials into a pack, grab a good walking stick, and quietly disappear into the night, in search of wild lands and mountains I have never seen. Or perhaps even head back to Dublin. A fine place, it is, full of people I am proud to call my dear friends. “Merry be the greenwood, while the world is yet young! And merry be all your folk!”

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Before I close, I thought I would add a little something for everyone’s enjoyment, if they like this sort of thing. One of the first posts I wrote on this site was called “Passengers.” A reference to a Lisa Hannigan song that ran constantly through my head while I was in Ireland, and also to those that I left behind: my friends and family, and especially my students. This blog was written primarily for them, and if they are still reading it, I hope that they enjoyed following along on my adventures. They, and everyone else back home, were passengers with me, and I thought of them often. So here’s a little something that sums up my time over there, in video form. Hopefully people don’t mind me using these clips of them. I imagine I’ll have more people upset that they weren’t included. Strange to see who and what I don’t have recorded; I could have used a lot more of my friends and family on here, and some students from way back, but hopefully I was able to capture a small slice of my life.

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Okay, one more thing. While the farewells in Dublin were sad, and the drive to the airport was just a horrible day all-around, I have to say that it was very heart-warming to have my mother (and fellow world traveler) meet me at the airport.

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Okay, I’ve ended this thing enough times already. Thanks to all my readers, and please stay tuned: these are just the first 40 posts of the 4-T Tales. Even though I have just returned home, I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.