Type for your life!

I have a confession to make: I don’t touch type.  I have a rather idiosyncratic style that I’ve developed which involves my pinkies stick out in the air like I’m taking tea with the queen while my hands cross the keyboard as though I’m playing a particularly complex piece of Chopin. Which is not always accurate but it’s quick. I’ve used this style all my working life. I’ve written lesson plans, end of year reports, letters and articles using it. Hell, I’ve even written a book or two using it.

Before.

So why can’t type properly?

At my all girl secondary school we had the option of taking a subject called ‘Office Practice’ which consisted of pecking at giant typewriters in an asbestos-lined portable classroom  while the teacher marched up and down barking orders.

I escaped this dystopian nightmare by taking Latin instead. In a manner that would have Mr Gove jumping for joy, my mother decided that her daughter would have none of this practical nonsense so I spent two years reading the joy that is De Bello Gallico and learning how to translate sentences like ‘the Carthaginians were once again routed.’ Which of course has proved far more useful in my daily life than that practical nonsense.

Latin was such a popular option in my school that just five of us took it (their mums made them do it too) and was timetabled for a triple lesson once a week. The teacher taught us for the first period, rushed away to teach French somewhere else in the middle period and came back for the final session. Except she usually forgot to come back.  In effectively one lesson a week I learnt very little Latin and got a D but a friend brought in her guitar most weeks and I did learn how to play Stairway to Heaven which apparently impresses teenage boys so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

At uni I had a Saturday job in a local newspaper office as receptionist. My boss, the head of advertising, naturally left the crappiest jobs for the Saturday girl. These jobs usually involved typing pages and pages of classified ads and the week’s sales figures. Not a Latin declension in sight.

And that’s how I developed my quirky style. Hung over, munching a toffee Crisp and desperately trying to see through swollen sleep-deprived eyes. Four years of that every Saturday and I was quick and accurate-ish and I’ve never really had the time to undo the damage.

But I’m now bored with the restrictions. I make the same mistakes constantly (‘citizenship’ gets me every time) and I have to peer intently at the keyboard as I type which makes copying anything really time consuming.

After. I hope.

This weekend I started learning touch typing using an internet programme (hurrah for the internet!) Perhaps one of the positives of being self-employed is that although the business is picking up, I still have time to practice. I’ve learnt all the letters and the commonly used punctuation. My little fingers are not at all happy at being employed and often refuse to work and I find myself hitting the spacebar with my index finger instead of my recalcitrant thumb but I’m getting there slowly.

I have written this post without looking at the keyboard and all I can say is thank goodness for spellcheck. My speed is about 18 wpm and my accuracy probably about 70% but it’s a start.

Do you remember when you learnt to touch type and how long did it take you? Is there hope for me?

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Jamie’s dream school again

Dream School is turning into a bit of a nightmare for St Jamie of Twizzler as his ‘teachers’ and students clash and even the head loses his cool.

In last week’s post I pummelled David Starkey for his snobby attitude to the students and his lack of teaching ability and it seems that not much has changed. Following the slanging match between the head and a student in assembly, Starkey thought it would be amusing to take the mick out of the student in front of everyone. Nice. Even the head looked like he wanted to throttle the historian.

But more about that assembly showdown: I’d like to say I was shocked and horrified by the behaviour of the student but I can’t because I’ve seen it all before. I’ve also seen how a simple misunderstanding can escalate into the sort of stand off that would have Gaddafi backing down. I was surprised at how the head managed- or rather didn’t manage- the situation.

The great behaviour guru Bill Rogers teaches about primary and secondary behaviours (which incidentally have nothing to do with the schooling system but are descriptors in their original sense.) It’s very easy to get carried away with the secondary behaviour but you need to focus on the primary.

Here’s an example:

Teacher: I’m going to ask questions and I’d like you to…
Student (Interrupting): Sir, I want to say something.
Teacher: Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.
Student: You don’t need to snap, sir, I was only asking.
Teacher: I didn’t snap, you’re being rude.
Student: Oh my days! I don’t know why I even bother coming to school, you’re an idiot, sir.

And so it escalates. The interrupting was the primary behaviour and the teacher should deal with that. The answering back was the secondary behaviour and the teacher engaged with that secondary behaviour thereby ignoring the original problem and escalating the situation. Make sense?

The teenaged Vesuvius went off with a mighty bang and a crisis that took time, effort and emotional struggle to sort out was caused. And Lord Jamie of Burger was very sensible and managed to be all things to all people. Although I wish he would stop calling everyone ‘mate.’

Elsewhere in this episode, students stayed in a Biodome but only one managed to fend off her nicotine cravings and remain inside for two days. Her reward was a trip to Arizona to work with some top Scientists. Hell, I’d leave Mr. R and move into a Biodome if those prizes were on offer!

Money guru Alvin Hall, who is all sorts of bow-tied camp deliciousness wrapped around a steely core, had a tricky start when two students decided to try and throttle each other.

Soon, however, the entire class was bent over calculators doing real Maths and there wasn’t a peep. One student even stayed on after class to talk about how many ‘woman’ goats he would have to buy to become a squillionaire. Top tip: If you’re going to be a goat farmer you may wish to know that ‘woman’ goats are usually called ‘nanny’ goats. Just saying.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode when Alastair Campbell makes his return after instigating a fight in his politics lesson, the students are introduced to the joys of Latin and its routing of Carthaginians and poetry and the ‘teachers’ hoist Sir Jamie of Chip’s under-crackers up the flagpole.

Probably.

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