Keyboarding was the most valuable class I took in middle school. These days I consider that one semester I spent with Mrs. Hartzell among the most useful in my life. Not that I enjoyed it while I was in it. As a sixth grader in 1990, I didn’t understand why I needed to learn to type. It was just before computers were ubiquitous, and my righteous little 11 year old self found it archaic and mildly sexist (even though it was a co-ed class). I hated being graded on my ability to move my fingers accurately while a piece of paper was taped over my hands.
We had assigned seats and were taught to boot the computers using the very large, floppy disks that we inserted into external drives that had little levers that locked down. We were timed as we formatted letters from the hardbacked, standing books to the left of our keyboards. Mrs. Hartzell had created a large replica of a keyboard with take-out food containers that huge on the wall behind my head. She proudly showed it off during our first class, and often stood underneath it with a yard stick, pointing out places where potential typos could occur. I got a C at the midterm because I couldn’t break the habit of looking at my fingers, but only managed to pull it up to a B by the end of the grading period, despite my habit of going home and practicing typing, “The quick fox jumped over the lazy dog” over and over again on our PC.
I often think about that keyboarding class and Mrs. Hartzell these days, as my fingers fly over the keys. I don’t have to look at my fingers on a good day, although the habit to look down often reasserts itself. I think about all the moaning I did when I was first told I had to take that class, and how I never realized what a valuable and useful skill I would be learning. These days, I count on my ability to type. It allows me to communicate, to quickly and easily convey a thought or idea to my boss, my mother or my friend Cindy. Mrs. Hartzell, wherever you are, I thank you for your devotion to the art of keyboarding and your passion for passing it on to reluctant sixth graders.