Friday, September 20, 2013

Muscle Memory

I am of the typewriter generation. I have vivid memories of the typing teacher's monotone voice calling out individual letters and punctuation marks, of mentally commanding my fingers to find the keys while keeping my eyes focused firmly ahead, remaining true to the philosophy of touch-typing.   

In the late 1970s, I typed paper after college paper on my Smith Corona, which had interchangeable ribbon cartridges that eliminated the need for little bottles of correction fluid; I put in the white cartridge, typed directly over my mistake, put the black ribbon back in, and continued on.  It was so slick.

Someone recently told me that the practice of putting two spaces after a period is no longer considered correct; that it's an old-fashioned typewriter thing to do and completely unnecessary in our electronic, word-processing age.  The truth is, it depends on the format we are being asked to write in.  The problem is, two spaces after a period is so deeply ingrained in my muscle memory, I fear it is a habit that may be impossible for me to break.  For now, if I am writing in MLA style, I just take the time when I am finished writing to go back and eliminate each superfluous space. 

The point?  As we are working in our classrooms to build stamina and behaviors of independence, we must keep the standards high and be careful not to let students practice wrong.  We must support, guide, model, and build stamina in the increments that allow students to be successful.  If we are unwavering in our commitment, our students will build strong muscle memory for reading to self that will be with them for life.  And that is a skill that will never be out of date.