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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The JOY of Learning - Sonoma County Gazette

Summer is coming to a close and leaves are falling into - and filling - my gutters. Another year when I promise myself to put up gutter guards. All this means is that it’s time to switch our thinking to getting ready for winter wet and cold.

If you have school-age children, your energy focuses on getting them settled into another school year, or as in the case of my grand daughter - starting kindergarten. I miss all that because my daughter moved too far away for me to participate, but I can still clearly remember her first day of school. My parents came here to visit so they wouldn’t miss it. I wish I could do the same for Destiny...that’s her on the cover with the book we bought together when I was visiting this summer. It’s one of her favorites and my chance to share my love of insects with her.

I was fortunate to have a father who read to my sister and me every night before we went to bed when we were young. He started me out with the love of reading. It’s why I chose this month’s theme, The JOY of Learning.” I believe that the greatest gift you can offer a child is a passion for learning and the ability to read. These two skills carry a person into life with wide-open opportunities to explore new subjects.

Please follow the stories submitted by readers to inspired learning....ENJOY! ~ Vesta

LOOK What I Did!
Finding JOY in a Sense of Accomplishment

By Vesta Copestakes

Good Teacher...Bad Teacher
What makes teachers bad? They discourage the desire to learn. They fill children’s heads with so many rules they take the fun out of learning. They tell a child that they have no talent in the one thing that brings joy. They test and test and test until a kid doesn’t care any more about what s/he does or does not know.

Here’s a little tale about a student who was discouraged when she was a child and later triumphed as an adult. That’s what I want to accomplish here. Get over it. The teacher was WRONG!

Annie’s story…
I was in the 3rd grade and every Friday, an “art teacher” came to our classroom, drew something on the chalkboard and ordered us to copy EXACTLY what was on the board. Those who didn’t succeed were struck with her ruler on the hands.

One day she stopped at my desk and screamed in anger “ You will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER (3 “evers”) be able to do ANY art! You are the WORST student I have ever had!”....followed by the requisite blows. The tragedy was that I BELEIVED HER for 50 years!

Then one day my friend Terry Dolan Magill, a wonderful watercolor artist and teacher said “hey Annie---let’s go paint!” Out of my mouth burst from my inner-most soul....”Oh NO, I can’t paint! I’ll NEVER be able to paint!”

Terry calmly said “bullshit,” led me outside her home in Valley Ford, handed me a brush, paints, water, and paper, and said “PAINT”! So I did.

My biggest regrets are that I avoided any opportunity to experience the joys of making art for all those years, and also realizing how many children had been hurt by such cruel teaching.
My biggest JOY lies with having hit the ground running at a late age and I absolutely revel in the privilege of turning “non-artists” into artists How wonderful that is!

Silence the Criticism
When people tell me they can’t write, I tell them to get the teacher off your shoulder. Write like you talk...forget all the rules about grammar, etc.. What you want is to give your heart and your head free reign,…you can edit later.

And that’s what the best writing teacher I ever had instructed me...“stream-of-consciousness” she called it. Unfettered by thinking about WHAT you are doing WHILE you are doing it. Silence every person who ever told you you can’t do something - including yourself! and just do it.

Inspiring Teachers
The best teachers are ones who get you excited about learning. In the land of words, reading teaches best. The more you read, the better you write because you experience over and over how sentences communicate well. Lucky people are those who learned to read & never stopped reading for fun.

 Annie Murphy Springer is one of those inspiring teachers…she knows what it’s like to be shut down and what it feels like to be set free. Her water color students are often people who never touched a paint brush in their lives and Annie makes them believe they can create art.

Whether it’s writing, creating art, playing music, building, gardening, crossing a line you were once afraid to gain a sense of “Look what I did!” even if there’s no one around to see. The biggest challenge is starting. Once you’ve begun you wonder what took you so long.

Annie has classes all the time and is starting a series at the Sonoma County Museum starting September 14. Jenn runs classes in her store constantly and has parties to warm people into the concept...try’ll like it.

“I keep those paintings I did in Annie’s class as a wonderful reminder of that experience. When I look at my crude work, I remember and feel the pleasure of doing it.” ~ Linda Curry

Annie Murphy Springer 
The Wonders of Watercolor
(707) 876 3211

Another inspiring teacher is Jen Balletto of Glass Fusion Studio in Sebastopol. Her students glow with a sense of accomplishment and take the thing they made home with them, use it in their daily lives and feel that thrill of accomplishment over and over.

“So much fun learning. It is a totally mesmerizing experience, and the social aspect is precious. The ability to start a creative venture that leads into more with the passion growing is fantastic.” ~ Linny

Jen Balletto
Glassfusion Studio
6906 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol
707.829.3855 •

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