Monday, April 11, 2005

Finding the value of failure

I arrived in speed building in my court reporting class last week. I had gotten to the end of Phoenix theory, theoretically having learned all I needed to record anything in the English language -- all, of course, except speed.

So I went into the first speed-building class, the one where they test at 60-80 words per minute. You do a few practice runs at increasing speeds, take the dictation, type up your notes and hand it in. The teachers say you should always type up your notes. You can't lose anything by it, and when you pass two tests in each of three categories at 95%, you move on to the next speed.

It had been so comfortable before. Finishing the book. Focusing on accuracy rather than speed. Doing . . . the . . . dictation . . . at . . . a . . . speed . . . like . . . this (30-40 wpm). Now, I'm back at the bottom, and the dictation moves along at double the pace, though still more slowly than anyone actually speaks.

There's a guy in my class who had never turned in a test, though he's been in the class at least a couple of months. He just never felt that he had done well enough to make it worth typing up the notes. But I, on my second day, turned in a test. Though I knew I had left some stuff out, I had nothing to lose, I thought. If I make 50%, I told myself, that's halfway to the next level.

Tonight I got my test back. I had done the format all wrong -- and one of the school administrators came in during class to give me a packet of information I had received but had failed to memorize -- and the grader gave up less than halfway through the test. Still riding on my earlier optimism, I said to my classmates, "Less than 71%. That's progress." The guy who hadn't taken the test before seemed thoughtful. "You know where you're starting from."

When the testing came around this evening, I knew which were the 80 tests and which were the 60 tests. It wasn't Q&A, so I couldn't get the format wrong. I had practiced over the weekend and noted a miniscule improvement. But when the time came to turn in the test, I had lost my nerve.

The guy turned his in, though.

I hope he gets a 95%.

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