Ctrl+F and the chronicles of Nerd Girl

Me (right) dressed up for Nerd Day in high school.

Me (right) dressed up for Nerd Day in high school.

Whenever someone asks “If you could have a super power, what would it be?” my response is always “I want to be able to use the Ctrl+F function of computers in real life situations.”

I loose things a lot, more like misplace things. I like to call what I do “hiding things from myself” and I’m really good at it. I once managed to lose an important paper my teacher passed out in class within a matter of seconds. I was holding it and the next second it was gone… I couldn’t find it anywhere and it actually really creeped me out. I never saw it again.

So the Ctrl+F function is my favorite thing about computers because it allows me to find anything I want without having to put in too much effort. Reading an essay for class and writing a follow-up paper on… let’s say women in the media? No problem. Use Ctrl+F to find whatever evidence you need to support your argument that women are underrepresented in the media, but they’re such bad asses.

So if it were possible, my super power would be to employ the function Ctrl+F in my daily life. I know what you’re thinking, “this girl must lose her keys all the time and hopes that she’ll be able to find them with Ctrl+F.” I will admit that at one point in my high school career, my parents had at least 10 back-up keys made for me because it was inevitable that I’d lose most of them. However cool it may be to not have to worry about where I’m putting things down, like my keys for example, I could use it for all sorts of things.

After I’ve found my third set of lost keys from high school,  maybe I’m pretty worn out and I’ve lost my motivation to do homework or study for the exam I have tomorrow. Losing my motivation happens frequently so if I were able to Ctrl+F to find the motivation to continue to do well in school and complete my assignments on time, that would be just wonderful.

Another problem I have fairly often is losing my direction in life. I know I want to save the world, but sometimes I just see myself working for a huge corporation that  cares about money and profit more than the well-being of society as a whole. I sometimes find myself conflicted in the way I picture myself in the future- what I’ll be doing, where I’ll be, who I’ll be with. If I could Ctrl+F to clarify what I’m really hoping to get out of life and how to get there, that would just be wonderful too.

Sometimes after making a poor decision or regretting the way I handled a situation, I fear that I’m losing touch with my values, who I am. That’s the scariest part of growing up. You’re finally beginning to figure out who you are and what that means, but you can’t guarantee from one day to the next that you’ll still want to be that person. What if the world sees your compassion and desire to please others as vulnerability and walks all over you. You’d become cynical. You’d lose touch with your values to compensate for your so-called vulnerabilities and fight back against the ones who are pushing you around. Sorry, I went on a rant because I’m experiencing a little bit of this right now in my life. So wouldn’t it be just wonderful to be able to press the Ctrl+F sequence on your keyboard to reaffirm your values and remind you why you value compassion and understanding- keeping you moving in the right direction!

BUT PLEASE don’t think I’m selfish. I would share my talents with anyone who needed them. I could help that underprivileged youth who’s lost his way and ended up in a dangerous situation to reevaluate his decisions and find his direction in life. I could help the corrupt politicians in the world find their values and use their positions of authority for the good of the whole people, to enact change that makes my job of saving the world a little easier. This power has so many useful applications in today’s world, I can’t even stand the fact that it’s not possible.

Saving the world with Ctrl+F. It’s my dream. You can call me Nerd Girl if you want.

The Obligatory Optional Assignment

KeyboardI want to pass on a piece of wisdom to anyone who still has the time. Though I wish I could somehow go back in time and tell past-me to listen to my parents and everyone else who told me it would be a good idea to take that typing class in high school, I can’t. “You fool,” I’d tell my past-self. “You don’t really think you’ll get anywhere in life without learning how to type properly, do you?” Of course, my snotty fourteen-year-old self would say, “I know how to type, duh. I’ll be fine. Leave me alone! I hate you!” At which point I’d poke that boogery little girl in the eye.

It’s not that I don’t know how to type. I mean, I’m typing these words right now, aren’t I? I have a whole freaking blog for Pete’s sake, for which I typed each of these blatherings all by myself. My dad frequently asked me to assist him with typing emails and values into Excel spreadsheets. I’m certainly capable when it comes to computers, as one has to be nowadays and especially at my age. There’s no escaping the fact that every person has to be, at least to some extent, technologically-versed. However, I’m not the strongest typist in the cyber-world.

I may be quick on the keyboard, in fact, I’m almost as fast a typist as my boyfriend who actually took that typing class in high school, it’s even been said that my fingers are on crack, but as when anything is accomplished at great speed, there’s often room for error. When I type fast, my accuracy is lacking. Spell-check has been my best friend since I can remember and along with the Backspace button, we make quite the team. If I’m focusing on accuracy and speed simultaneously, I find myself looking at the keyboard almost 90 percent of the time, often to recalibrate my mind-finger coordination after taking frequent pauses when I’ve mistyped something so horribly far from what I was meaning to type that the words on the screen are unintelligible and I’ve forgotten what I was doing altogether. Thus, I’ve found that I cannot have speed and accuracy together.

Let me just brag a little by saying that my spelling skills have always been on-point. It really is the typing, the faith that my fingers will find the keys my mind wants them to, that causes my accuracy to suffer when typing quickly. Many times I’ve thought that if I just knew the proper way to position my hands on the keyboard, memorized the arrangement of keys on the board, I could cut out so much time lost to the backspace button, pausing to gather my thoughts, spell-check, etc. But after all this time doing things in my own way, I can’t imagine going back to learn the correct typing method. Would it even help? Would I be wasting my time? Is it possible to correct my bad habits after all these years? And so I’ve decided to use my summer to cross “typing” off my rather long list of things I want to learn. I suppose, in light of this decision, learning to french braid my hair and learning to play the piano will have to wait.

I’ve started a typing course online. It’s my optional for now, but obligatory for life, extra-credit assignment. We’ll see how that goes. As of today I’m three lessons deep and I’ve found that the more keys I’m practicing at a time, the less accuracy I have as well as the less words per minute I’m typing. Go figure and talk about discouraging. I’m also finding that my hands are getting more lethargic more quickly in the new position they have to hold over the keyboard- on the “home row.”

So kids, I think the lesson we’ve learned today is to take keyboarding in high school, or preferably earlier, since people are clearly using computers and learning to type at earlier ages than fourteen. Maybe these courses should be offered in elementary school.

Get back to where you once belonged

Monday, I was pleasantly surprised when my boyfriend’s younger sister asked me to be a guest speaker in her public speaking class. Not that I am so public-speaking inclined, it was mostly because my boyfriend told her “no.” No matter the reason, I was flattered and agreed without hesitation. So, tomorrow, well later today, I am going back to my high school, getting “back to where [I] once belonged,” as put by the Beatles, to speak. About what? I don’t know yet.

My whole life I’ve been labeled “talkative.” In elementary school, even some middle school, classes, I got in trouble for talking constantly. Many a report card I brought home with a “talks too much in class” in the teacher’s notes section. A family friend called me “blabbermouth,” a nickname which caught on and stuck in my immediate family. My communication skills are on-point to say the least. I have no problems talking to people, which is why I thought it would be no big deal to speak in front of a class of 20+ high school students for 45 minutes to an hour about anything I want. Upon further reflection, I’ve found that this is a bigger deal than I originally thought. Not many people have the chance to share what they’ve learned, their wisdom, with others, especially when those others have no choice but to listen. Not to say that I have wisdom worth sharing or that if I did it would be organized into anything nearly coherent. It wouldn’t and I don’t as of yet. My goal in my “speech” will be to make it relevant to majority of the students.

The extent of direction I was given on what to talk about tomorrow was to tell them about my “college experience.” What if half the kids in that class don’t plan to proceed with their educations after high school? What if they are unsure? If I’m going to talk to a group of people, I want what I’m saying to at least be somewhat relevant to them. Maybe it won’t exactly resonate with every single one of them, or maybe I’ll find that six students are sleeping the whole time, but I want to try to make my time there something the students will be able to listen to without following the hands around the face of the clock.

I’m definitely more worried about what kind of impact I make tomorrow more than the actual task of presenting in front of people. Although I may not dread speaking to a group of people, I’m not exempted from the usual fears of public speaking shared by most. I think I may just have a greater talent for harnessing that anxiety and guiding it into something of a more constructive nature. Anyway, I’m sure that I’m overestimating the importance of tomorrow’s “speech” and over-thinking things. Those kids are just tying to get through another day of high school and I’m coming back for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be heard by a group of kids who may or may not have their lives figured out. I have the power to influence them, but I don’t think I will. I don’t plan to campaign for a college education, or for Virginia Tech, or for working on a newspaper, or for majoring in finance or communications, but I am going to tell them about those things and hopefully, what I come up with tomorrow is useful to someone in that room.

Teach your children well

We all have those inspirational teachers to whom we owe so much. I have wanted to thank one of those teachers since I graduated high school almost a year ago. Last week, a group of us alumni was approached via Facebook by another teacher from my high school who was collecting 50 letters from 50 of my favorite teacher’s former students for her 50th birthday. What a perfect opportunity. Though I will keep that teacher’s name private, I am happy to share the letter I wrote in hopes that someone will see this and be inspired to thank a past teacher and express to that person how special being in his/her class was.

Dear Teacher,

First, happy birthday! Your cells might be considered “over the hill,” but you are young at heart and as full of life as anyone I’ve ever met. In honor of this important birthday, I want to tell you how special you are to me.

Having had the opportunity to be in your class has affected me deeply as both a student and an individual. I’ve had a lot of favorite teachers and continue to find more in college, but you stand out as the most extraordinary teacher I’ve ever had and, I firmly believe, I will ever have. What makes you extraordinary is your ability to inspire a love of learning in general, not necessarily a love of the subject you teach. I remember coming home after biology classes and telling my mom and dad what I learned that day, whether they wanted to hear it or not. It was like I was in first grade again because I found the material, not only relevant to everyone, but interesting in the way you presented it to us. I was excited to learn because you made it relevant.  You were able to satisfy our need as students to know the “so what” that so many teachers leave out of their lessons.

You go above and beyond, pushing teaching to a new standard. I remember in the first week of school last year, you explained what “minute sketches” are and the importance of learning to you. It made me excited and honored to be in a class taught by someone who not only loves biology, but loves learning, and is passionate about teaching both of those things. I can guarantee that I will always remember what a nephron looks like, and the parts of a “perfect” flower, where the pancreas is, why we need to finish all the antibiotics prescribed by our doctor, the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems, and the ins and outs of the cell cycle. I learned those things, not just for the test, but for life. I know this is not only true for me. As much as I disliked science before, when a B average was good enough for me, you made me really love biology. I don’t know how, but you did. Though I’m not a biology major, I will continue to love biology because it’s helped me to better understand my world and my body. To this day, I can help my college friends who are animal science majors and biology majors, etc. with their homework assignments on photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

What distinguishes you from other teachers is that you truly care about your students, not their grades or their performance in your class necessarily, but truly care about them as human beings. You care enough to devote your time and energy to empowering them to pursue learning as more than a requirement, but a lifelong process. For me, you made it easy to focus on the learning aspect and with that came the success reflected in my grades, while in most classes it is hard to focus on anything but the grade. You have so much to give to us in only a small window of time, but you make it count. All of your students are inspired by your commitment to learning and your commitment to wellness. You will always be that teacher to me; the one who changed our lives inside and outside of the classroom.

I believe that teaching as a profession goes severely underappreciated, especially because teachers are the ultimate givers. I hope that every day, not just today, you feel how much you are appreciated by your former students and even your current students. I know for a fact that you’ve made a difference in lives of so many people, those who tell you and those who don’t, and each one will carry what they’ve learned from you for the rest of their lives. The day you told me in Mrs. Cox’s office that I was “one of your favorites,” I knew I had to tell you that you’re one of my favorites too. Thank you, Teacher. Happy birthday! Have a bowl of ice cream today, you deserve it and your hypothalamus will be able to regulate your blood-glucose levels for a special occasion!

Love always and forever,
Melissa Draudt

PAHS- Class of 2012 & VT- Class of 2016

A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron. 

~Horace Mann (a revolutionary educator like yourself)

P.S. I hope work with the textbook for IBO is coming along well! You’ll get to influence students’ learning all over the world. They couldn’t have picked a better person for the job!