13 January 2009

What I didn't know, or thank, at the time.

Quick! Before you have to get back to work on whatever it is you're working on (chopping down a tree, devouring fondue, counting paperclips), please complete the following exercise.

Name three things that you are now thankful for, but that you weren't thankful for at the time. I'm leaving the "things" part pretty open, but mine have to do with learned skills and experiences.

Here is my response.

1. Typing class in high school. I thought it was total bs at the time. Yeah, right. This will be my most useful class ever. Sure. Much more useful than all of the French I'm taking, which will be putting the real bucks (and brie) on the table when I grow up, as if I actually think about growing up other than that it'll be awesome. But I am thankful every day for what I learned on that shiny electric typewriter. There were many times in my life when the ability to type 60-ish wpm put the bucks (and Kraft singles) on the table. I can type faster than I think. So thank you typing class, or keyboarding, or whatever they called it.

2. Crappy temp jobs that taught me a lot about office work, and life in general. There's nothing like being dropped into a completely unfamiliar office environment and having to jump right in operating the switchboard and not mispronouncing everyone's last name and wondering when you can get up to use the bathroom and praying that the photocopier doesn't eat you, all while stashing an issue of the New Yorker on your lap in the hope of some downtime. I never thought that I would actually learn anything as a temp, other than how to send faxes and fly under the radar. Now that I do a lot of office work, however, I am so thankful that I know how to perform minor surgery on a paper cutter, or how to unjam a copier (though oh how those puppies have changed over the years). I am also a lot more appreciative of administrative staff. I still send my own faxes, too, even though the machines don't make that delicious screeching sound any more.

3. Shop classes in junior high and high school. I always had a fascination with shop, whether it was cars or woodworking or small machines. Was it just because of the sexy safety goggles? No. I'm not sure why I enjoyed it so much, but shop class indulged the side of me that likes to take things apart. Every day I looked forward to working on my _______, and there it was, along with the other _______s, waiting for me. I don't know if shop class is designed to give artsy, bookish teens more confidence, but I think it did for me. I still remember the multi-sensory barrage of being in shop class, and I'm still not afraid to take (most) things apart. I would hazard to guess that shop class did more to inspire my writing than English class did.

So what are your three for the day? Please share, either here or at your own place.


Justin Evans said...

1. I am grateful for my Humanities class. I took it as a substitute when my English teacher (the same teacher for my Humanties course) told me that i was not a good enough writer to take A.P. Senior English. It was really work ethic back then as much as crappy writing, but that Humanities class saved me. It was tough, fun, and truly fascinating. After that high school class, I was able to clep out of 6 sememster hours of college level humanities/Art History courses by taking a test. The test was supposed to take two hours, and I did it in 45 minutes. Thank you Ms. McPolin.

2. Drama/Debate. My grandmother put me in my first drama course when I was in 9th grade because I am at my very core, an introvert. Problem solved. I also look at it as one of the fundamental reasons Iam a successful teacher.

3. The Army. Without my 3.5 years on active duty (I put in for early release after Desert Storm) I would not have the college money, yes, but more importantlly, i would not have 1/10trh of the confidence, direction, drive, focus, or maturity I had when I went I got out. It may hve taken 3.5 years of my life, given me headaches for the rest of my life, but I don't even think I would be half the poet I am without the army. It's not everyone's answer, but it certainly saved me from a life of wandering and made everything good in my life either possible, or more likely.

Talia said...

1. Learning the 5-paragraph essay format. I'm drilling it into my 8th graders, not because it's such a great way to write, but because it is foundational, and a tool, and I hated the whole thesis statement, transitions, and all of that (AND SO DO THEY!) but by time they re-take the ISTEP test in the spring, they'll be amazed! And if it weren't for Miss M who taught it to me in 10th grade, college would've been much harder.

2. My father's incredibly strict insistence on doing chores, and being thorough, and not being lazy. In our house, one was not allowed to sleep past 10:00 ever! And now, look how darn productive I am.

3. Writing Poetry 101: I loved to read and write poetry when I took the class, but Prof. Smith insisted that we memorize 3 poems, and as a final project, record a few poems to the tune of a synthesizer, violin, etc. The result was leaning the importance of poetry as spoken word, as well as a really cool recording of myslef reading Plath and Sexton.

Karen J. Weyant said...

1. I am grateful that I had a great but tough mentor as a graduate student. She told me I would have to really get my butt in gear (in a nice way)or else I would never get a full time job in this job market.

2. I am also thankful that I worked in a factory for a year. I now know more of my family's struggles. Plus, on a purely selfish side, I now have more material for my poetry.

3. Finally, like Mary, I am thankful for that typing class. It has done me a world of good.

Sara said...

1. Having to cook dinner for my dad when my mom started working nights. At the time, I wondered why we couldn't both eat salami sandwiches and be done with it, but now I'm glad that I learned how to make all my mom's recipes, especially the comfort food that makes me feel better about being far from home.

2. Having terrible boyfriends. Besides being fodder for many a poem, being treated poorly toughened me up and taught me how to stand up for myself. Plus, now I know how to spot a good one.

3. Losing my job at the insurance company. I wouldn't have gone to grad school otherwise.

Collin Kelley said...

Definitely typing class in high school. I'm a demon now. Also, my years working in theater, which have given me patience to work with the high-strung and flat out crazy.

Kristin said...

--I, too, am grateful for typing. I took the class in high school, mainly anticipating that it would make college easier if I could type my own papers. Never would I have guessed that I would still be typing so often, 25 years after taking that class.

--I'm grateful for the years in my youth when my parents moved around a lot. That experience of always being the new kid and then moving and having to do it all again has given me a lot of inner resources that I probably wouldn't have developed otherwise.

--I'm grateful for my Cuisinart food processor. The Christmas that I got it, I was hoping for a VCR, but I suspect I'll be using the Cuisinart longer.

Pamela said...

1. My divorce.
2. My first poetry workshop, which my dear friend Pattie talked me into taking so she wouldn't be there "alone."
3. Piano lessons.

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