I arrived back in Virginia a day later than intended. On Friday Becky, Malcolm and I left the house in Cortona before five in the morning expecting to be at Rome airport at least three hours before our eleven fifteen flight to Philadelphia. An hour into our journey, the first rays of the sun reflected golden from the ancient cities perched on the mountain tops. Soon the sun had touched the valley in which we were traveling, bringing a warmth that we had not known for the past week. Everything was perfect and I thanked God for this beautiful send off.
We reached the autostrada that rings Rome with plenty of time to spare and were talking of the breakfast we would have after checking our bags, when we hit the tail end of a traffic snarl up. For half an hour we did not worry as we moved forward, one car's length at a time. After an hour, Becky called Roberto on her cell phone and he told us the news programs were reporting a major truck accident short of the turn off to the airport.
There were no other turn offs and our pitiful progress continued for another two hours. Three an a half hours in a traffic jam in the early morning after having woken to a cup of coffee is tough on the system. It was fine for the men in the waiting cars. They hopped out and stood facing the hedge but we women had to hang on. A small fortune could have been made by anyone who had set up a porta loo along that roadside.
We eventually arrived at the airport at exactly the time our plane was leaving. US Air booked us on the same flight on Saturday morning, giving us the last two seats available.
Besides the general frustration of not getting home as planned, our delay meant we were to miss the opening session of the Foundation's Conference, The Creative Mind: Rainbows of Learning.
Before Becky left to return to Cortona, the three of us had lunch in the cafe of the Hilton Hotel, the only hotel at the airport. Twenty dollars for a tuna sandwich and seven for a cup of coffee convinced Malcolm the two of us should eat elsewhere that evening. After resting we took a train to Trastevre, a suburb of Rome that the Romans say is the real Rome.
Italian trains are inexpensive, efficient and comfortable and the train ride in itself was a pleasure. From the station at Trastevre we rode a number 8 tram to the center of town where there is a choice of restaurants frequented by the Romans. We selected a small restaurant which offered a three course dinner for half the price of an entree at the Hilton. What had seemed destined to be a depressing hotel evening ended up being a delightful experience.
Enough of that! You will be thinking that all that interests me is food. Every week I am in Italy, I tell you about food. Well to the Italians, the preparation of food rates along side soccer in national importance.
Now to the Foundation's conference:
This was our sixth annual conference and it was as inspirational as any we have had. Spending time amongst these wonderful caring teachers, who traveled from as far as the West Coast and one even from England, filled me with hope for the future of our children. I wish all our politicians could have heard the presentations and listened to the discussions that followed.
The initiatives and ingenuity of many of today's art and special ed teachers are poorly recognized and seldom understood. Faced with severe budget reductions, they develop lesson plans that overcome the lack of materials and inspire their students. It makes me very happy to see an ever increasing use of the arts as an aid to teaching all subjects in a form that is interesting and that awakens the young to their creative ability.
If art had been used in the teaching of lessons in my young days, I am convinced I would not have been such a hopeless student. I would have found the lessons exciting and have succeeded in keeping my mind focused on the subject being taught. This conference was a kaleidoscope of ingenious teaching methods, created by teachers, whose understanding of their children is manifest in their ability to bring joyful learning into the classroom.
The mission of our Foundation is to foster the use of the Arts in teaching. I am happy to report to you that it is fulfilling its mission with excellence. I thank the members of the Society whose generous contributions give the Foundation the means to make an impact on the lives of many of our young.
I thank Dell Phillpot for the excellent organization of the Conference. Dell received a standing ovation from all present and it was so well deserved. Peggy Goodwin, thank you for the help you gave Dell. I also thank those of you who serve on the Foundation's board and on its Professional Advisory Board for your planning and oversight.
The collective thanks of those who attended go to the staff of Sweet Briar College, who accommodated and fed us in royal style, while still keeping the costs within our modest means. Subject to ratification by the Foundation board, we will return to Sweet Briar next fall for our seventh annual conference. If you want an experience that will enrich your spirits come and be with us next year.
Those of you who read The Art Cart, the Foundation's on line newsletter published specifically for the classroom teacher, or Arts Smart, the hard copy newsletter of the Foundation, will get to know the specifics of the Conference presentations. The photos that come with this letter will tell you some of what happened.
Particularly significant for me was a conversation I had with art teacher Margaret Morris of Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Margaret told me that after attending her first conference with us two years ago, she had returned to her school greatly strengthened by the experience of being with other art teachers who face the same challenges. "I knew I was not alone and that made all the difference. It strengthened my resolve and carried me through the next two years," Margaret told me.
Through the conference and through the communication of Art Cart, we can bring an awareness of common cause to art teachers, special needs teachers and teachers in general. No teacher using art in the classroom need feel alone in the struggle to awaken the minds of the administrators to the limitless benefits art holds for all students. Within our Foundation there is a network of like minds fighting for the same cause of championing the use of art.
Now I am looking ahead to next weekend and the Foundation's fundraising dinner at Hotel Roanoke. As of today, the expected attendance will top three hundred. We can still accept a few more but if you want to join the fun you need to call Dell Philpot on 540 932 1728 before 5 pm Wednesday.
Hey it is good to be home and I am in time to see the last of the fall colors.
Her watercolor was a charming depiction of three girls dancing as if carried by the wind.
Malcolm's haiku about dolphins contained the incorrect number of syllables and his watercolor was a confusion of colors all running into each other. After dinner that evening there was an auction of all haikus with the money going to the Foundation. Pat's raised the top price $230. Malcolm's received a surprising bid of $25 from someone wishing to prove that art is non judgmental and no one comes bottom of the class.
Add on for those thinking of joining the Society trip to Italy next
The photo of the measuring scale on the wall of the palace of the Captain of the People, dates from the middle ages. The top metal bar was the measurement for a standard scale of wool. The middle bar measured one third of a meter and the lowest bar, a meter. The bricks and tiles gave the correct dimensions for bricks used for the walls, floors and roof tiles. Any one who thought he had been given short measure by a merchant, could check against the measures on this wall before deciding whether or not to take his case to the Captain.
In the other photo, Malcolm and I are sitting in front of the upper church of the Basilica of St. Francis. On the lower level is a church of similar foot print. Assisi is the city home of St. Francis, my favorite saint. (When Mother Teresa is raised to Sainthood, I will have two favorite saints.)
We will be taking only fifty fellow travelers with us so if you want your name on the list you should call Lance Allen at the Society office, 540-943-5678.