Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Essential Question.

I watch television.  A lot.  The reality is, if I'm at home, chances are pretty good that something - usually CNN these days -- is on in the background.  But, aside from The Big Bang Theory and Antiques Roadshow, there are very few shows that I actually sit DOWN to watch.  So when the opportunity to actually take my stuff and have it appraised on the Roadshow, I eagerly submitted my email address, hoping to "win" two free tickets, knowing that luck is not usually on my side when it comes to random drawings.

This time, I actually won.

Mr. Peanut was actually a woman!

Each attendee was invited to bring two precious items for appraisal.  Bruce and I spent many days mulling over what we would choose to take.  As those who know us well know, we do a lot of antiquing, and sometimes we even buy something.  Bruce focuses on militaria, and I, well, am inspired by whatever amuses me or makes me wonder.  In my defense, it's also how I teach my students -- amusing them first, and then making them think about the bigger picture.  

In education, teachers today are encouraged to teach, by first asking an "essential question."  For everyone in line yesterday, at least one of their essential questions was "What is this _________ worth?" , as each of us hoped to discover that we possessed the holy grail of  antiques.  Bruce chose to take a Revolutionary War sword and an inscribed powder horn.  I chose a textile - a sort of banner, designed to celebrate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration that I had purchased several months ago at The Mad Hatter in Adamstown for less than $20 -- and a pen and ink/watercolor whimsical piece I had purchased in Connecticut about five years ago.

As we headed off to this adventure, I knew virtually nothing about either piece, despite many hours of research and googling.  My family has never batted an eye at the textile, choosing to spend most of their time humiliated by my ownership of, as we call it at home, "The Wang."

The Wang

Have you ever seen something that you were attracted to, and overlooked something else that, later, became painfully evident?  In my world, The Wang is the epitome of the overlooked, yet hyper-obvious.  I discovered it in the 50% off section of the Mansfield General Store and Antiques, in Mansfield, CT, while at UCONN.  I like watercolors, and I love whimsy.  I was amused by the piece, I was homesick, so I bought it -- for $37.50.    I am sure that my family considers this to be a truly ridiculous investment, yet it has brought me considerable joy and entertainment in the few short years that I have owned it.  Fortunately for me, when I returned home with it, they were too happy to see me to criticize my newly-acquired original Wang to my face, assuming I new the entire content of the painting.  I didn't discover the obvious until more than a year later.

The Roadshow experience was fantastically exhausting. My Fitbit clearly lies about my physical activity yesterday, because I know I walked - and stood on the cement floor of the Farm Show Arena - more than 4534 steps.    We arrived shortly before 2:30 pm, and left almost five hours later.  

The Washington textile, roughly an $18 investment, is worth between six and eight HUNDRED dollars.  Bruce discovered the sword, which he had thought might be fake is actually authentic, and was surprised to learn that the powderhorn was not what it seemed.  The last appraisal of the day was The Wang.

Kathleen Haywood, a prim and proper woman from Massachusetts, was the appraiser to whom I was directed.  If you examine the close up of Wang's signature on my piece, directly above the signature is what can only be described as a pileup of whimsical animals.  (And if you think differently, get your mind out of the gutter.   They're fun, and they make me smile.) Prior to unveiling my item, when prompted by Kathleen with her inquiry "What did you bring me today?", I stammered through my rehearsed answer:  

"I've always loved watercolors, and whimsical drawings.  I found this in Connecticut.  It wasn't until a year later that I discovered the pornographic detail on the man."

Okay, so maybe that wasn't my best activating strategy, when introducing this new topic to this Puritan woman from New England.  Her immediate response:

"Did you NOT NOTICE the animals copulating on the side?"  

Why yes, yes, I had.  In fact, I hold them personally responsible for my inability to notice the aforementioned genitalia on the character at the bottom of the pile of humans for almost a year.

Fortunately for me, Kathleen had a bit of a whimsy attitude herself, which was evident when she put on her hot pink round spectacles, and scanned The Wang under her Ott Light, shared it with the appraiser next to her with a bit of a giggle, and began actively searching her databases.  

After all of her searching and evaluation, she came to the same conclusion that I had -- The Wang is priceless.

Okay, so maybe not priceless, but was not something she could identify.  She referred me to the Illustration House in NYC, suggesting that they might know more about Wang than she.

I'm confident that this most-recent obsession of mine will become a topic of witty comments and sarcastic criticism from many of my friends.  In fact, I'll be a bit disappointed if it isn't.  It should be known that I was able to actually activate my filter, and chose not to enter the Feedback Booth at the end of the day.  We met a lot of fun folks in line, including my line-mate, Bob, from Berks County, who suggested that I  enter the Feedback Booth and say, 

"I came to the Antiques Roadshow today to find an expert on mid-century pornographic whimsical watercolors, and am severely disappointed!"

After all, doing so might embarrass my family, and they have so few coping skills in dealing with my eclectic collecting habits.

Friday, June 2, 2017

It's a Wrap!

I awoke just after 4 am, as I often do, but the list in my head prevented me from going back to sleep.  I checked my email for three papers that are overdue, and entirely too important to me, because their very existence will determine whether their authors pass or fail my class. By 4:13, I was writing a letter to one student, requested by a parent more weeks ago than I care to mention.  I'm living in denial, as I do every year, because today is the last day of school. The Class of 2017 will graduate this evening and tears will be shed as I watch another group of humans leave the hallowed halls of Donegal to go forth and make the world a better place.  

Summertime, and the Living is Easy...

Effective today, I can eat lunch, taking time to both talk and chew, rather than inhaling sustenance in 18 minutes while wondering about the ingredients in the 2, 3, 4 Bean Salad.  I can choose what to eat based upon what I would LIKE to eat, rather than which line in the food court has the fewest members.  I can be present in my discussion at lunch with colleagues, rather than having half of my mind rewriting the lesson that I'm teaching after lunch to be more effective or meaningful.  Today and Monday are reserved for end of the year "professional development," coveted days where teachers get to choose where to eat, and with whom they'd like to dine.  Coveted time.

Effective next week, I can read a book of my choice.  In reality, the choice will probably be something to prep for next year, and not the beach novel that requires the anonymity of an e reader to protect my reputation, lest someone catch me reading something that is nothing more than a guilty pleasure.

In a few hours, the annual senior parade will circle the high school, with the seniors showing their individuality, creativity, and togetherness simultaneously for one of the last times.  They'll pelt candy at our heads, and blow kazoos and air horns and bells with the intensity of the Whos Down in Whoville when the Grinch returns the gifts.

And while this is all happening, we teachers will be simultaneously sorting the contents of our desk, tossing and organizing, and planning for next year.  We'll be setting aside the books that we dragged to school but never read  to take HOME, hoping to find time this summer.  We'll be finding the "evidence" of our effectiveness for Domains 1 and 4 to scan and present to our administrators for our end of year evaluations.

And, at least this teacher, will be gathering a stack of senior photos, notes, and memories to take home for that scrapbook that I might take time to add to this summer, celebrating an extraordinary group of students leaving the nest for the last time. 

Congratulations, Class of 2017!