My son told me a story the other night that makes me smile with fondness and pride.
First, you have to realize his background. He went to high school at an American school in Germany. The ONE class that really took advantage of their being in Europe was AP Art History. The class had a fabulous teacher, Kathleen Hellmann, who really taught the material well, and she took the class on a trip to Florence so they could really see some of the work they were discussing.
This teacher spent a good solid four hours discussing the Mona Lisa. It was huge in the world of art and affected art tremendously. She told the students that they would certainly be asked, “So why is the Mona Lisa important?” and she made sure they would be able to answer that question, at length.
Fast forward to this past month. Josh is in college, at a school that will remain nameless for this post. They do not give AP credit, and did not let him test out of Art History, since it is supposedly a class in his major (Film). This particular month is Josh’s turn to take Art History. It only lasts four weeks, but for quite a few hours each day.
Josh was already frustrated with the class. The teacher is focusing on things like which saints are pictured in which paintings, rather than the actual history of art.
He was already frustrated that they didn’t cover some of his favorite artists. He told me, “Mom, they didn’t even cover Rafael! Rafael was a Ninja Turtle! He was the coolest Ninja Turtle!” (Sure enough, it brought me right back to when Josh was 3 years old and his favorite character to pretend to be was Rafael…. But I digress.)
Then they came to the Mona Lisa. The teacher talked about issues like who might have been the model, and was ready to move on. A student raised his hand and asked, “I don’t get it. Why is the Mona Lisa so famous? What’s the big deal about it?”
The teacher didn’t really answer the question. She even said something along the lines of “maybe it’s a mystery.” Josh couldn’t contain himself any longer.
He raised his hand. When the teacher called on him, he stood up. Then he addressed the class, beginning with the words, “Here’s why the Mona Lisa is important:”
He talked for fifteen minutes. Knowing my son, I bet he was clear, detailed, dramatic, and passionate.
When he sat down, he was shaking. The classroom burst into applause. Lengthy applause.
A sad note: He heard someone ask behind him, “Should we be writing this down?”
Now, as a Mom, part of me isn’t quite sure I should approve of this incident. He can’t really have won the heart of his teacher! But knowing what a wonderful teacher Ms. Hellmann was, knowing how well she taught Josh Art History, and knowing that Josh had been containing his frustration like a model student for the rest of the time — I’m giving in to my stronger impulse, which is to be proud of him! Way to go, Josh!
He has two weeks of class left to go. I hope he can stick it out! Meanwhile, it’s making him really appreciate Ms. Hellmann for the awesome teacher she was!
And I’m really appreciating what an awesome son I have!