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There’s more to education than classrooms

Mona Hill
Staff Writer
3/30/2011

My mom used to take my book away, shove me out the door and lock it behind me, saying “Go play!” I hated it.

Today I recognize the value of that directive, but given a choice, I read; I read a lot — two or more books a week on average.

Not all my reading consists of the masterworks of literature. I like mysteries and thrillers. I read finance, political science, biographies, history, pulp fiction and best-sellers. I’ll read anything that looks interesting.

For me, “so many books, so little time” is a constant refrain.   I love to talk about what I’ve read and what others are reading. I want to savor the characters, their story, the writing and the writer’s craft.

Most of the book clubs I’ve belonged to turned out to be excuses for women to get together and gossip. Discussing the book was barely on the evening’s list of activities — 10 minutes max. Extremely disappointing.

So, when I went to a meeting of Quincy High School’s book club, I was impressed. In half an hour over lunch, the students and their advisor talked about the novel’s motivations, character development and themes.

They freely shared their reactions to and opinions of the book; compared it to the movie and interested me in a book I’d passed over — can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The same day, I went to talk with Quincy sixth-graders about a story they’re going to do for the newspaper on their watershed project.

I gave them the standard pitch on how to write a news story that connects with readers.

Then they asked questions. They had a lot of questions about the stories I wrote: how I found the story ideas, how long I’d been a reporter, how many papers do we print, how much money do I make and how I write.

It was exciting to see how engaged these students were in the business of writing. They heard about a local sixth-grader who went on to make good by writing. They heard it was possible for them to accomplish the same achievements.

That’s a great day at work.

***

It’s all too easy to think small towns, small minds and few opportunities for our youth. Because it’s a long drive to the “big city,” there seems to be little enrichment and encouragement in our rural mountain county. But that is just not so.

Within our community are women and men who inspire our youth to reach for more:

Johny McDonald teaches music to young and old alike, enriching our lives and the lives of our children;

Jane Steidel coordinates the Artist in the Schools program and makes it possible for Becky Compton to teach art and drama, for Ramona Eaglesmith to teach dance and for Jean Wendorf to teach ceramics and for elementary school students to enjoy their knowledge;

Bill Gimple devotes countless hours to Greenville’s science fair and so do many other ordinary people who are not quite so ordinary.

How fortunate we are in Plumas County to have people — in and out of the schools — sharing their passions with our children and with us.

We have art, theater, music and dance thanks to Plumas Arts, Footloose, Words & Music and amateur theater, and countless artists, writers and musicians.

Michelangelo’s “David” or Picasso’s “Guernica” cannot be found within county lines; however, our community teachers share their creative inspiration and vision. They provide opportunities to explore creative expression and build knowledge.

Creativity, whether artistic or scientific, is the basis of an enriched life. Whether we admire someone’s work or create our own, that process can fulfill us, lightening our hearts and our shoulders.

Compared to San Francisco or New York, Plumas County may be a Podunk backwater, but what a rich and diverse backwater it is.

That diversity is the product of our teachers, in and out of school.

 


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