One of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, loved to explore the idea of the actual hero being one of the weakest of his characters; Weakest in physical strength, or magical powers, that is. Teamwork is also a major player in his stories. Since Tolkien’s body of work has been declared an actual mythology for England, Tolkien mythology has become a course of study in colleges and universities, which then makes it a relevant subject for me to teach in my high school mythology class, so I do. As I prepare to introduce Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, (and the rest of the Hobbits) Gandalf, Legolas, and Aragorn to new students this year, a thought occurred to me. The Fellowship of the Ring is similar in structure to our schools. Here’s how.
This may be a bit of a stretch for some districts, but I see Gandalf as the Superintendent of the group. He (Gandalf is a he. I’m meaning this to cover every superintendent, he & she. I do not mean it in a sexist way) is the lead man on the quest who handles the politics, direction the group will go, the vision, the current mission, and sees the big picture. He knows how to group his people according to the strengths they bring to the collective group. Gandalf deals with the heavy stuff, like the Balrog that tries to derail the mission. While Gandalf fights the Balrog, the rest are free to continue on with the important work of saving, well, the world. As if that isn’t enough, Gandalf also offers wisdom to individuals on his team at times when they need it most. He offers support time and time again to save his team from trolls, Orcs, Goblins, and Ring Wraiths. Gandalf stands between the most dangerous enemies and his team in order to keep the mission safe and his team focused. But, and this is important, he doesn’t tell them every step they need to take. He lets them make mistakes. Gandalf knows where the giant spiders live, but sometimes the team needs to rescue themselves from the pitfalls along the way in order to learn and grow. Learning comes with struggles and hardships. Good comes from that learning. Gandalf also trusts his team enough to fulfill their part of the mission on their own with minimal interference. He knows how to utilize each member in ways that benefit the team the most. Gandalf leads in the background where possible, but he steps up to the plate (or off into the deep of the Keep with the Balrog) when it is most needed. He has faith that his team will continue on without him until he dispatches the Balrog and rejoins them.
Aragorn is the Principal of the team. When Gandalf is not leading the group, Aragorn is. He protects those under his charge, provides training for the upcoming battles he knows they will face, thinks strategically for best ways to accomplish the mission while pursued by Orcs and others not on board with the mission, understands his people (Dwarves, Elves, Ghosts, Humans, Allies, etc.) and knows when to back off and let them go off on their own (in a boat, headed to Mount Doom). His every action is in support of the overall mission. He knows what must be done and what resources he needs to accomplish it. Aragorn does not turn down aid when it is offered, and he offers aid in return to any who ask for it. In fact, Aragorn leads his people even when he thinks it is hopeless. He doesn’t quit, but finds a way to do what he knows must be done despite the grim outlook. H knows his leader, Gandalf, is working in the background to save him and his team. He carries on regardless of the circumstances. He is totally focused on completing the mission.
Legolas, Glimli, and Boromir
These three are mostly equal (when not affected by the power of the Ring) in their roles. They are great in battle, support the weaker members (Hobbits), offer guidance, training, and fun when needed. These three gladly put themselves in harms way to keep the other team members and the mission safe. These three are the counselors, the instructional/technology coaches, the teacher leaders, and more depending on the roles / positions in your district. They function as the right hand man (woman) of the principal, aka Aragorn. Folks, these three are all in for the mission, but they aren’t incorruptible. They are human (or dwarf or elf, but not infallible). However, even when Boromir stumbles, he still manages to do what he has to do, for the mission. Unlike Aragorn, they don’t have to function alone. They almost always have support and backup. They have teammates ready to pick up a sword or axe or bow and kill Orcs along side each others. They too trust each team member to do their part. In fact, they depend on it. Collaboration indeed.
Now I know some of you are a bit irritated that you’re a hobbit and not Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn, Glimli, (and some of you weirdos are wishing Smeagol / Gollum is an option…it’s not) while the rest of you are happy with the analogy or confused because you don’t understand it. (Go binge watch the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies because as educators, you may not have time to read the books. If you do make time, they’re well worth the read.) Either way, keep climbing. We’re almost there. Hobbits may be smaller than most of the others in the group. They don’t wear shoes (this is not an endorsement for teaching barefoot inside a regular classroom on a regular basis), their feet are hairy and larger than human feet, but despite the negatives, Hobbits save the day. More than once. It’s their super power. If you need tree people to help defeat the enemy, call a Hobbit. Need someone to travel with limited supplies? Enemies all around? Even led by an evil being (Gollum is evil. He was not trying to complete the mission. His mission was to get the ring. Period.), discover true friendship, and despite all odds complete the mission for the team by throwing the ring of power into the fiery chasms from whence it came? (Quote is by Lord Elrond, so don’t argue with the grammar-It’s Lord Elrond!) Then you need a Hobbit. Sure Hobbits and teachers aren’t looked upon as glorious heroes (outside of education) generally speaking, but facts are facts. While as a teacher you may not have saved the world, but you may have saved a child, inspired a teen, reached the unreachable student (fiery chasm of Mount Doom), sparked an interest in your subject matter, helped a student read, write, or communicate. Maybe you pushed an athlete or student to go beyond what he or she thought was possible but discovered, through your motivation, that they could do more, be more, achieve more.
Fellowship of the Ring
We all have our own teams, but with today’s technology, we aren’t limited to the group in our building. We need to work with our group to achieve the mission of our schools, but we have the power to do more, be more, achieve more, and the world has arrived at our fingertips. If you are at a low point on your journey to Mount Doom, and it seems like the Ring Wraiths are gaining, you’re surrounded by Orcs, or you are constantly bothered by the Gollum in your building or hallway (Sorry Team Gollum folks. Change sides. Gollum doesn’t save the world). Reach out to your PLN through Twitter, Voxer, Skype, Hangouts, email, or whatever method you choose. Your educator family is out there waiting to support you. Let them fight the Orcs while you and Samwise Gamgee (everyone needs a Samwise in their life) get in a boat to continue the mission. Let your administrators and leadership team take on the Balrogs, Goblin Kings, and evil armies while you do your part. One step at a time, make the climb. Throw the ring. Save the world.