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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Color Choices


Yesterday I finished reding Kirkpatrick Hill's The Year of Miss Agnes to third graders. It is a quiet story, narrated by ten-year-old a Athabascan girl named Fred (Frederika), and set in 1948. The eleven students (later twelve) in Fred's school have never had the same teacher twice. For various reasons, the women never seem able to endure the conditions, some not even making it a year! Then the English Miss Agnes arrived, putting their old books in storage, hanging a world map on the wall, and creating a timeline on the wall (which prompts the pupils to play their own time machine game). She read wonderful books to the students (like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Kidnapped) making them reluctant to depart for the various hunting and fishing camps their families routinely visited. She also brought a phonograph, records, a camera, and boxes of art supplies. Used to having the eight-color boxes of large crayons, the students were amazed, especially the littlest ones.

"They took the big boxes of crayons and made a dark line with every single crayon. They hold the crayon so hard their fingers turned white. They wanted to know the names of every color. They had funny names, not like the plain names on our old fat crayons.

We laughed and laughed when Miss Agnes said the names. Burnt sienna and magenta and periwinkle. Flesh. That was very funny. 

We all put that flesh crayon by our hands and laughed because our skin and that crayon weren't anything like the same color." p. 29

My students all held their hands closer to their faces when I read that part. Later, as they attempted to make self-portraits using the ArtRage application, they would carefully move the color selection tool, holding their hands up to the resulting color, hoping to get a close match. 

The Year of Miss Agnes drew us close as we contemplated the compassionate teacher who carefully motivated the students to learn, spurring discussions about their best and favorite lessons. The ending is just what I hoped, and each class of third graders clapped as I closed the book.

1 comment:

  1. A must read...thank you again. I love your Crayola photo. I've been recently thinking about a high school teacher who profoundly changed my life...

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