In the olden days before personal computers, we learned to type on a machine called a typewriter for lack of a better name. You may have seen one of these in a museum or your parents may even have one in the back of the closet somewhere.
Back at the dawn of civilization, typewriters were not electric. You had to actually push the keys down hard enough to raise a bar with the letter you wanted to print on the paper. If you wonder how we every got anything done – we didn’t.
Then there was also the problem of errors. If you made a mistake, you had to stop and erase it with an ink eraser. It was better not to make errors. I was never much good at anything that involved a physical skill. I don’t know if it was a mental block or if I was just a klutz, but I suspect that it was the latter.
Mrs. Towery, one of my worst teachers ever, was a typing teacher, which didn’t help my self-assurance much. I was quiet as a teen, believe it or not, and being in a class where I felt less than competent made me even more so. I dreaded it when the teacher looked over my shoulder to scrutinize, and I made even more errors that had to be erased with the dreadful ink eraser.
Then someone invented this wonderful paper called “easy-erase.” A mere touch with an eraser and the error rubbed away. It didn’t help accuracy much, but it improved speed tremendously. Ol’ Mrs. Towery didn’t know about easy-erase paper as she didn’t get out much. It was a godsend for fingers like mine that hit the wrong key on a frequent basis.
I clicked along, kept a low profile, and tried not to erase any holes in the paper that Mrs. Towery could circle with her red pencil. Usually, I was last to finish and turned in my assignment when the bell rang. The problem with “easy-erase” was that it was also “easy-smear,” especially when the ink was fresh.
One morning, Mrs. Towery stood in front of the class, her scow deeper than usual as she held up a smudged and dirty paper with a large “F” on it. “This is the worse looking paper I’ve ever had turned in,” she said to the class. Then she dramatically handed it to me so everyone could see who did such sloppy work.
I couldn’t believe it. My paper was clean when I handed it in. Then I realized – I was last. It was on the top of the stack. She must have smeared the ink while handling the papers. A sudden surge of adrenaline courage hit my brain. “My paper didn’t look like that when I handed it in.” The classroom was as quiet as the day after school lets out for summer break. The class stared at me in disbelief, waiting for my impending death.
Mrs. Towery was enraged. “What do you mean it wasn’t like that?” she hissed, furious that a student would defy her.
“I used easy-erase paper and mine was on top. You probably smeared it yourself when you graded them.” The silence was dizzying.
Mrs. Towery went right on handing out papers. She knew. I knew, and the class knew too. I was an unofficial hero for a while.
I eventually learned to type with enough practice. Easy-erase paper went the way of the dinosaur about the time auto-correcting typewriters came along. I don’t know what ever became of Mrs. Towery. I can’t help but wonder if she went to her grave still thinking that she could humiliate kids into learning.
Wouldn’t she be surprised to know that I not only can type, but also turned out to be a writer in spite of her and due to capable teachers who use praise and positive feedback to teach.
Mrs. Towery, wherever you are, this is for you: fdsajkl; fdsajkl; fdsajkl;
How did you learn to type or key? Have you ever had a teacher like Mrs. Towery?