Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Roadshow and the Feedback Booth.

My husband, Bruce, and I are avid fans of PBS' Antiques RoadshowWe play a bizarre game of "Keep It,"  "Sell It," and "Do the World a Favor and Break It", when we watch, evaluating each item up for appraisal through a personal lenses of value.  We're getting pretty predictable in our responses, now that we've spent more than a few hundred hours watching the show and wandering through various antique stores and malls in the area.

Bruce is as overwhelmed at the prevalence and ridiculous values of Fender guitars, as I am at Asian and Native American art.  Suffice it to say that if we were to suddenly be presented with any of these artifacts, we now know enough to have the stuff appraised before hauling it off to Goodwill with a hearty "good riddance."

   Roadshow and the Feedback Booth.

Oh, sure, Susan, you're saying.  Obviously you're going out on your "National History Day is coming next week and we should all pay attention to the past to celebrate the present" limb.  Well, yes -- and no.  Of course I'm excited about NHD, and I do love a good connection to the past while living in the comfort of the 21st century.  I also have spent a fair amount of time, recently, considering how much the people on the roadshow (contestants?  partakers?  antique owners?) remind me of my classroom.

Consider the parallels:

The Guy with the Fender guitar, case, and amplifier left to him by his grandmother.  (Yes, that was the sound of Bruce sighing in the background as yet another guitar was appraised by the smooth-talking southerner acting as if he'd never seen a guitar this good in his life when we all know better...)  The set was worth $30,000.  Yup.   The poor dude was speechless. 

And then he uttered the words:  "Well, I guess I shouldn't keep it in the closet."

Seriously?  You didn't like it enough to keep it out and look at it, and now that it's worth thirty grand, you're going to put spotlights on it and decorate a whole room in your house with the guitar as the focal point?  

Similar comments are made of strange, weird, ugly artwork that nobody in the family likes, and you know the darned painting or sculpture was dragged to the Roadshow more to prove it's worth nothing, only to have owners tearing up and celebrating something suddenly deemed worthy by an antiques appraiser.

You'd better believe I'm sitting on my sofa chanting "Sell it, Sell it!"

Other items brought to the show are family treasures.  The baseball caught during the World Series signed by the entire Yankees team, with all sorts of provenance to the grandfather of the now-owner.  Or the military diary, sword, or drum from the Civil War that has been passed down through the family.  It's clear that a big dollar appraisal on these items might actually stress out the owners, who vow, before the appraisal, that the item isn't for sale.

I have to admit, sentimental ancestral connections always elicit the "Keep it!" chant, even if it's just in my head, as my heart is smiling as I watch someone who truly gets it.

So what makes people value antiques?  Is it because someone tells them to value them, with a monetary appraisal that suddenly makes them care?  Is it emotion that connects them to their ancestry?

And what makes students value learning?  It certainly doesn't seem to be because someone tells them to value the information.  Are students emotional about what they are learning?  Hmmm.  Maybe if they can connect, on a personal level, with a teacher that they trust and respect.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  Our Student Council at the high school has encouraged learners to consider the value of their teachers and nominate those who have had a profound impact on them.  This evening, the Lancaster Newspapers is encouraging its readers to thank a teacher, (while featuring a 16 year old picture of my good friend, and Roadshow fan, Liz).   All of this retrospective thinking has reminded me, once again, of the shoulders of giants on whom I've been able to stand -- even if only for a year.  

So who are the teachers who taught you to value learning?  Who kept you from selling your textbooks at the end of the term in college, because you loved how much they loved sharing their subject?

Mrs. Brumbaugh, Mrs. Finegan, Miss Jungles, Mrs. Mahoney, Mr. Dresher, Mrs. Bovenkirk, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Check, Mr. Rahnzahn, Mr. LaVelle, Mr. Dodds, Mr. Stewart, Miss Ambler, Mr. Gribosh, Mr. Erwine, and so many others, at Glenside Weldon and Abington who taught me to love learning.  And folks from college and graduate school -    Dr. Heston, Mr. Dunlap, Mrs. Best, and Mrs. White.  Sally Reis, Joe Renzulli, Sally Dobyns (who dragged me, on a sweltering 103 degree day into a cemetery in Connecticut -- all for the love of history), Jan Lapien, Del Siegle at UCONN.  I'm sure I'm leaving as many teachers out as I've mentioned, yet the love of learning shared by these teachers is still in my heart  -- some of them more than 4 decades later.

So much so, that if I had a letter from one of them appraised for big bucks on the Roadshow, I'd be hard-pressed to sell it.    Honest.  I'd even say that in the Feedback booth at the end of the show.