Friday, July 10, 2015

My Student Office

"Gotta learn to type!"

Growing up, I lived with my family in a two-story light-brown brick bungalow; the roof line ran side to side when viewed from the street.

The house had a dormer on the left. The characteristic A-frame roofline was on the right, and sported a high, narrow window. Behind this window was a room still holding a warm place in my heart.

It was small, five feet deep. It was twelve feet wide from the floor up to a height of about four feet, at which height the sloping roof imposed itself on the room. The ceiling of this room followed the slope of the A-frame roofline. The walls and ceiling were paneled with cedar. Entry to this room was in the middle of the wall opposite the window; it came from the bedroom that I shared with my brother.

Dad mounted a flat door, the exact depth of the room, against the sidewalls on each side of the room, at desk height. This created a simple desk on each side. A typing table and a manual, upright, Underwood typewriter were at the left side of the desk on the left. This was my side of the room. My brohter's was the other. This room was my sanctuary; I loved going there to do both high-school and college schoolwork.

This was my space; my brother had the desk on the right. Dad used a card table in my parents' bedroom when needed. Only I used my space. I was able to light it and populate it with whatever I wished. When my brother was not there, which was mostly, I could also be loud. I talked to myself when typing, reading difficult passages, and struggling with schoolwork problems. When I was alone, talking to myself, "myself" was the only person to even hear me speak.

Because of the two doors between it and the rest of the house, my parents could have a noisy gathering and I would have been well insulated from its noise.

I learned to type in this room. Dad was a high-school office skills teacher
( typing, bookkeeping, shorthand ) and knew that one learned to type by, well, by typing. The instructor provided initial guidance; the typing books had help with that plus exercises. Dad provided the initial guidance, books, typing paper, plus the typing table and typewriter. It was up to me to practice.

I was thirteen. I knew knowing typing would be valuable, my maturity made that motivation to learn, and the environment made it easy. I still remember, though, practicing typing when my friends were playing wiffle ball, or something. I could watch them. My maturity level was adequate to keep me at the typing table, but inadequate to tell my friends I was learning to type. I don't remember what I told them, but it was not, "Gotta learn to type."

At about this time, Dad made me aware of "Gregg Notehand," aimed at students. It was a much simplified version of Gregg Shorthand. Dad believed, correctly, that I would want to learn it to navigate high-school and college lectures. This was also learned by doing. After initial guidance from Dad, one would build skill by doing a book's exercises. This was another perfect application for my "office," as I had begun calling it.

Today, when visiting friends with children of school age I have frequently been struck by what the kids go through to do homework. They drag their school-work, from wherever they left it when getting home, to the kitchen table, but not until dinner is over and the table cleared and if the table won't be used for something else. Then they get their work out and do it in front of whomever happens to be watching. And I remember my office, going there anytime I wanted, doing virtually whatever I wanted, having to worry about neither getting in someone's way nor someone getting in my way.

That incredible gift warms my heart still.
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