The Geography lesson was over and it was time for Art. The children had been looking at flags and the teacher had said to her class of nine-year-olds, 'I'd like you all to make a picture of a flag or a picture with a flag in it. You can design your own or you can choose one you particularly like and draw that. If you're copying, though, please make sure that you're very accurate, particularly if you choose the Union Flag.' The children giggled at this.
She told them they could use any medium they liked, pastels, charcoal, poster paints – whatever they thought would be best for their individual composition – and that they would have forty-five minutes to finish. Then there would be a fifteen minute period when everyone would display their creations.
A number of hands went up and she pre-empted the question by saying, 'Yes, you may use computers if you wish.' At this several of the pupils eagerly pulled out their lap-tops ready to start work.
'Can we draw pennants?' asked another child.
'Is a pennant a flag?' she countered.
Several of the children nodded.
'Can you think of any other different names for flags?' she continued. 'Think of places we might see flags.'
She was pleased to discover that they knew several terms. Burgee and ensign were offered by one or two who had done a lot of sailing. Offspring of the Parent Teacher Association Committee Members predictably mentioned bunting and banners and streamers. The rather serious son of a serving Army officer suggested colours and standard.
After a lot of murmuring the class settled down. The room wasn't silent but there was a purposeful working hum. The teacher decided that she would not tour the room, looking over shoulders at work in progress but wait for the show. That way her reactions would be as fresh and spontaneous as the children's.
There was an undercurrent of excitement when the time for the art show drew near. Each child was to hold up their picture and comment on it if they wished or answer questions.
There were a number of castles, forts and pirate ships. The Army officer's son had portrayed the Trooping of the Colour with all the soldiers' and horses' legs precisely synchronised. One of the girls had painted a magnificent galleon. The PTA Committee Members' children had sat together and produced lively, detailed collages of the School Summer Fête.
The children had been generous in their appreciation of their peers' efforts but were beginning to get restless as the show drew to its close. Finally, the last picture was displayed.
There were grunts and protestations as the artist held up her water-colour. Even the teacher was taken aback for there, painted against a backdrop of graceful trees and water, stood a clump of wild Iris.
As she drew breath to comment the little girl said shyly, 'You said we could paint a flag we particularly liked and I really, really like Yellow Flags.'
The teacher smiled and the rest of the class said, collectively, 'Ohhhh!'
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