43rd: Do not express joy before one sick or in pain, for that contrary passion will aggravate his misery.
I'm a proud
IF YOU CAN TYPE...
6 October 2004
The old saying goes, "if you can read, thank a teacher." In my case, the first revision that comes to mind is "If you can type, thank a teacher"!
I went to a small Catholic high school, St. Vincent's in San Francisco. The school no longer exists. It was in a slum section of the city, which is now an upscale area, and the "new" St. Mary's Cathedral (at left) sits on the site once occupied by my old school.
The staff of the school was primarily Daughters of Charity, technically "sisters," not "nuns" (I used to know the difference; I don't any more), though we had a few lay teachers as well.
There were 200 students in the school, give or take a few, and it had only recently been given status as a college preparatory school. In its heyday it was known as the best business preparatory school in the city.
The curriculum was pretty much set, with a few variations. We weren't allowed to take typing until our junior year.
My mother was a good typist and it was something I always wanted to learn, so I was very much looking forward to my first typing class. I hadn't encountered Sister Anne before, as her forte was business classes and she was in charge of the athletic programs for the school (the one area that I avoided like the plague).
We hit it off from day #1. This was 1958, so the room only had two electric typewriters, and those were reserved for the good typists. The rest had old black manual typewriters (the kind you see in old '40s black and white movies).
My friend Ann and I somehow decided to sit at the front of the class, at the desk which was directly in front of Sister Anne's desk (the "desk" was more of a table which accommodated two typewriters). I recall that we had to change chairs every few weeks, so that people moved around the room. Whenever we had to change, Ann and I just moved into each other's chairs. I don't remember sitting anywhere but right in front of Sister Anne until I learned how to type, and, as the fastest typist in the class, I was the first person to get to use one of the electric typewriter.
As the year progressed, my friendship with Sister Anne grew stronger. I began helping her in the class before and after school. She taught me how to use the other machines (mimeo and ditto...remember ditto? That thing that left your clothes purple?)
By the end of the year, I typed faster than anybody in the second year of typing and the school didn't want me to take Typing II, but I was adamant. I wanted to continue in Sister Anne's class. They reluctanted agreed, but over the summer Sister Anne was relocated to Phoenix and her replacement and I hated each other, so I only lasted two days in the cla ss.
I'm sure I would have become a good typist even without my attraction to and friendshp with Sister Anne, but it sure made me work harder and was the reason why I went the extra step and worked so hard at learning all the other machines.
There were other teachers throughout my years at St. Vincent who inspired me and helped to change my life. Sister Mary William, the school music teacher (under whom I sang in the chorus), chose me at the end of my first year to be the Sophomore editor of the yearbook. Through three years of working on the yearbook staff (ultimately as senior editor), I developed a love of journalism, of building an attractive looking page (which probably comes to play whenever I design a scrapbook page).
Mrs. Gavin was my French teacher. Odd little woman who instilled such a love of languages in me that when I went to UC Berkeley, it was as a French major. To be ready for Mrs. Gavin's class, I loved Sister Benedicta's Latin class. The thing about Sister Benedicta was that she was so easy to distract. We all would ask her questions that would send her off on tangents about things totally unrelated to Latin. She also taught me algebra and geometry and, when they wanted to prepare me for college, she taught me private classes in Algebra II, since it was not a class that was offered at the school yet. We would meet in the nuns' laundry room and she'd give me my lessons and then leave me to work out problems. I never did learn Algebra II.
I'm 61 years old and I still think of these women with fondness and gratitude for the things they taught me. What a wonderful thing it must be to be a teacher--and how many lives one must touch. I'm sure only the teeniest fraction of former students ever let their teachers know the influence they've made in their lives.
Sister Anne and I remained friends until her death, just a few weeks before Ned and Marta married. Jeri's middle name is "Anne" and when Jeri was a baby, we took her to visit the woman for whom she was named (she was only 6 weeks old at the time and cried the entire time. The only time in her babyhood when she was completely impossible).
I also flew to St. Louis to visit Sister Anne about 5 years before she died. She took me to the mother house and set me up in the guest cottage. She gave me a tour of the grounds and confessed that she was the brewmaster for the convent, and proudly showed off where she made the beer! It was very strange going back to the guest cottage and sitting there drinking beer with my former teacher!
She died of Hodgkins Lymphoma and a few months before she died, she made a videotape for me. I still treasure it and get tears in my eyes at the final scene, of her standing at the door of the convent, waving, and saying "good bye, Beverly."
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