I was invisible in seventh grade.

At least that’s what it felt like at the time. I was becoming disinterested in reading. In math class, I noticed that I was losing focus and couldn’t follow the lessons. The new social waters at middle school were difficult for me to navigate.

The last period of the day coincided with physical education (PE).  This was the one class where the regular kids were tracked separately. At our school, the jocks were worshipped, always wearing their football jerseys on gameday. No one would confuse me for one of them.

I was scheduled for typing with Mr. Tim Jones. He was straight out of nerd central casting: short-sleeved button up shirt and a pocket protector bulging with pens. He had thick glasses that could have doubled as magnifying glasses in a pinch, and a messy mop-top hairstyle. Yet, I knew that he was also very well-respected at the school.

For some reason, this teacher took a liking to me. I was a complete wallflower in my other classes, rarely raising my hand. He called me by name and asked me questions. Jones knew that I was interested in guitar and asked me what I was playing. That year, it was the only class where I felt like it mattered that I was there.

I appreciated that he could be a playful smartass while holding us all to high standards.

“Hey Jones, can I have extra time to finish this assignment?”

“Cost you a digit.” 

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“A finger.”

“I can’t finish my assignment if I’m missing a finger, Mr. Jones.”

“Think about it. You could probably type most of your essay without your right pinky.’’

I looked down at my right pinky and surveyed the keys in the vicinity. “Oh, you’re right.”

“So you’d really give up a pinky for this assignment?”


And so on.

Looking back, that typing class was only an elective. And yet, I use these typing skills each day in my work and in life.

I date myself here, but imagine sitting in a room with thirty students pecking typewriters for five hours a day, year after year, and that being your career. What do you think he heard in his head when he went home?

But that was Tim Jones’s lane. He belonged there, and it made a difference with me.