Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Possible Addition To "Cool Teachers in Children's Lit"

Today, Beth at Cover to Cover mentioned that Miss Hawthorn from the picture book WILLOW by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan might be a good addition to our Cool Teachers list. So, I started to read the book and decided that Beth may have lost her mind. The first page begins with these words,

"Even on the sunniest days, Miss Hawthorn's art room was cold and dark. Everything was in its place. There wasn't a single broken crayon in the bunch. The students sat in their rows, silent and still, like eggs in a carton."

See why I thought Beth had lost her mind? But I trust Beth on books so I kept reading. It seems that everyone sits silently except for Willow. Willow is a creative spirit and sees things in her own way. Instead of painting brown trees with green leaves, Willow paints pink trees. Willow shares her own art book with her teacher and classmates. She continues to paint things that upset Miss Hawthorn, who frowns and mutters, "Horrid little girl."

I am sure you are wondering what I am possibly thinking, even considering adding Miss Hawthorn to our list... In our original Cool Teachers post we said:

"We're looking for thoughtful teachers who understand kids and learning and are active, intelligent people who love their work."

Miss Hawthorn may qualify because of the ending of this book. Throughout the rest of the story, Willow continues to be her wonderful self, sharing her own thoughts with Miss Hawthorn and others. She even gives Miss Hawthorn a few gifts. The last gift is her well-loved art book. (SPOILER AHEAD but I think you can figure it out anyway.) At the end of the book, Miss Hawthorn discovers her own creativity and her classroom becomes a place where everyone could be themselves!

So, Miss Hawthorn learned from her students. What could be better than that? She became a different kind of a teacher because she listened to the children who were in her class. She ended up becoming a teacher who valued each child's creativity. I think learning from your students and reflecting and changing your practice because of it definitely qualifies her to be on our list. What do you think?


  1. I vote YES. I thought this was a sweet little book. I never wrote about it, but I agree... Learning is the best kind of teaching.

  2. Funny, I had such a different reaction to this book. I couldn't buy into the idea that the art teacher was so unartistic and so the whole thing was lost on me.


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