Mirkwood and the Changeling Queen.
I sat down to draw, and tried hard to think about what, if anything, attached to my current circumstances at school. I’ve been trying hard to stay focused solely on the things that are positive at school, and really, that keeps coming back to the business of teaching. We are firmly in Chapter 8 of “The Hobbit,” after Gandalf has left, and the party enters Mirkwood. Mirkwood is a dangerous magical forest, filled with deadly spiders.
A part of me wanted to to draw the confrontation with the spiders, and that might be content for tomorrow. (Yeah, I’m dealing with deadlines like that.) When I sat down though, I realized that I wanted the art to be more narrative, in terms of the setting. So, I started with the Mountain that they are headed for, where Smaug lives, as the tops of the trees. Over those is sky, with clouds and birds, and the layers of trees. One clearly large spider web suggests the adversaries of the chapter, as well as the flowing waters of the Dark River, with its enchantment of forgetfulness.
A huge amount of the content of the chapter wound up in the piece, with no figures, no “action”, and a change of compositional idea. I thought that was pretty interesting, and will be commenting to my students about the idea of illustration not needing to show action, but instead relay information. It seems pretty obvious, but it is amazing how it isn’t until you note it.
The reading is going well, and my students are engaged. It’s a good thing that Winter Break is coming, though, since we are at the verge of the students’ overall attention to one thing. We will be making a hard push to completion, while juggling “Common Assessments” and racing a report card deadline. Philosophically, the dark, endless forest of Mirkwood is a good metaphor here…since Bilbo and his friends are almost at the end of it when they become tangled up in the spiders’ webs.
Campus continues to be…chaotic. With the District Suits gone, we have returned to Status Quo, Business as Usual. Opportunities are taken, when available to take potshots at my team of teachers for being outspoken, and the friendly, positive mentality of last week, when we were on display is gone. Last minute planning abounds, and absenteeism, of Teachers and others, is on the rise. The part that bothers me most is the change in demeanor.
For a couple of weeks, there was a method of dealing with staff that was friendlier. There was a veneer of “owning responsibility” a fresh coat of “we’re in this together, right?” To a degree, that was intended for a purpose, the idea that things would go more smoothly, and staff would be more motivated. People saw it for what it was, but at the same time, there was the hope for something genuine in it.
This, pretty much, is why I try to avoid dealing with adults on the campus. I’m more than a bit over the gossamer loyalties of those in the workplace, and the sudden changes in attitude and demeanor as the tide rolls. I just want to come in, teach English, and be left alone. Although I’m not happy with that withdrawal, it’s a coping strategy.
As I sat, in an English department meeting that has been overturned to provide feedback on school programs for a document due Friday, the sketch above started. It almost came upon me from the outside, and demanded to be drawn. I watched staff agree with things in a positive light that I didn’t think they would, and then later, at the poorly attended Union meeting, gather to gripe. In that meeting I brought up the Changeling quality, the Harvey Dent style reversals of the teachers. As we discussed having our Leadership present for the Union meeting, for an “airing of the grievances”, I wondered how many of them would stay the course, with their bosses in the room. I wondered that out loud, since traditionally, they want to have my team take the licks for the group.
Apparently, that “airing of the grievances” will take place, in a week, when the District Suits return with their Findings.
Perhaps by that time, we will be close to the edge of the metaphorical Mirkwood, and the Changeling Queen won’t be on hand. Once again, one can hope. It is well known that the Suits were given a great deal to chew on, and that Leadership is Unhappy. Usually, that follows a Reaganomics-like structure, and trickles downward to the rank and file.
Time will tell where that Dragon roosts.
(Tolkien is really influencing my metaphors, True Believers!)