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To My Typing Teacher on Thanksgiving

A thousand years ago when I was in high school, we didn’t have computers.  A computer? What’s that? Nobody had a computer. Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) were 12-year-old boys. We didn’t text a thousand words a minute with our thumbs on our cell phones. Our phones stayed home when we went out.  It was a slower and different world.  In that world, typing wasn’t a skill that seemed necessary because it wasn’t necessary to the average person. Typing was relegated to the clerical side of life on earth. If you were someone’s secretary, you knew that you’d be expected to be able to type.  Otherwise, the rest of humanity didn’t see the necessity of learning to type. 

My high school offered typing classes.  The typing teacher taught a person how to type on a…TYPEWRITER.  Typewriters were in every office and in many homes.  If you typed something and wanted to have a copy when you finished, you needed a piece of carbon paper. Carbon paper was paper that had an inky substance on one side. It was inserted behind the original paper. You placed a second paper behind the carbon paper and when you finished you had the original and a carbon copy.

I decided to learn how to type because I thought it would be an easy class to pass.  I don’t remember my typing teacher’s name, but I remember her.  I learned more than typing from my typing teacher. I learned to:

Memorize the Keyboard

Before I could type a single word, my typing teacher taught me the importance of correct focus if I wanted to be a good typist. As a beginner, I was tempted to look down at the keyboard to keep from making typing errors. Her first lesson was to insist that I keep my head up and not down. Her primary and firmest instruction was “Do not look down at the keyboard.” This seemed impossible for me in the beginning. I was focused on not making a typing mistake more than on becoming a good typist. She taught me that it was my eyes more than my fingers that would make me a good typist. Really? Really.

In order to keep my eyes up and looking at the typing task at hand, she insisted that I memorize the keyboard. Simple and profound. She said, “It’s important that it becomes almost second nature for you to know where the letters are. You will see a word and your fingers will just instinctively be on the correct letter.” It was tedious work at first to place my hands on the keyboard and say each letter as we typed. It was slow and boring but it was a primary and foundational part of her teaching me to type.

Without comprehending it as a teenager, she was teaching me how to succeed at many things in life.  Because of typing class, I understood not to expect myself to be an expert at anything in the beginning.  If I was willing to let someone teach me the basics, eventually I would become an expert also.

In the same way, no one should expect to be an expert at marriage, or parenting, or finances, or business in the beginning.  Change your focus.  Don’t focus on being perfect and not making mistakes when you are new and learning.  Everyone makes mistakes at everything when they start.  Accept that fact and keep looking up not down. Focus on learning what you have been given to learn. Be thankful for the chance to learn from others.  Learn the basics and, eventually, everything you need to know will be second nature.  It will take time, but it will happen.

My Typing Teacher Was A Gift 

Because I was young, inexperienced, and immature, I didn’t understand that my typing teacher was a gift helping me accomplish my dreams. I was a teenager in typing class in high school, slightly bored by the mundane task of memorizing letters under my fingers on a typewriter.  I didn’t understand that my secret childhood dream of being a writer was having its beginning right there in typing class.  I didn’t have the foresight to say to myself, “Wow, someday I am going to be a writer, and knowing how to type well is going to be a necessary skill for me to have. I will be able to focus on what I am writing and want to say instead of being focused on my typing errors and the keyboard.”

Being a writer was just a dream at that moment in time. I didn’t know how or if it would come true.  I learned to type because I memorized the keyboard. I got an “A” in typing class because I typed fast and I made few mistakes. Presently, I don’t give a thought to the letters I am typing in this sentence.  I think the words and my fingers just instinctively go to the necessary letters.  My teacher was correct.  It’s true that most of the great writers in centuries past did not type their manuscripts but I think it’s because they couldn’t.

I learned that sometimes life provides what we need before we know we need it.  The lessons we may be learning at the present moment may seem unneeded or unwanted. We may not appreciate the person in our life who is trying to help us through, trying to explain the basics that they have learned about marriage, parenting, business, and life.  It may take some time for us to see things clearly enough to be thankful for that person who is teaching us the basics and to thank that person for hanging in there with us. We need teachers to teach us what we don’t already know. If we already knew it, we wouldn’t be sent a teacher.

Be Humble Enough Say “Thanks” 

In the same way, no matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished, you haven’t accomplished it on your own.  No one succeeds 100% by their own efforts. Somewhere in your past is a person who taught you something you needed to know or gave you something you needed to have. It isn’t demeaning or degrading to simply say, “That person helped me accomplish what I have accomplished.” It’s the truth.

Teachers don’t teach so that students will thank them. They teach so that students will learn. It won’t make the news, and it won’t change the course of the nation to stop and consider how many people have helped us in our lives and to actually take the time to say “thanks.”  Was someone kind to you when you needed someone to be kind to you?  You learned kindness from that person.  Was someone generous when you needed something?  You learned to be giving from that person. To my typing teacher, where ever you are, “Thank you for teaching me how to type and much, much more.”  Happy Thanksgiving to all our teachers. Thank you for teaching us what we need to know even if we don’t know we need to know it.