The Most Useful Class I Took in High School (and a chance to win an advance reading copy of Kaitlyn’s next mystery)

SPECIAL MESSAGE: entries for the drawing will be accepted through midnight Eastern time on Friday, October 4. Then Shadow will pick the winner and I’ll email that person and also post the information in the comments section. Good luck everyone.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett here, contemplating the lasting influence of the things I learned in high school. To be truthful, my fondest memories aren’t of classes, but rather of the junior and senior class plays and the school-wide musical we put on. The teachers involved in those weren’t the same ones who taught the courses I had to take for a Regents diploma. Instead they offered instruction in art and music and encouraged those who participated in drama as an extra-curricular activity to develop self-confidence and reach for the sky.

In addition to English, history, math, and sciences, there was a tiny bit of time left over for electives. I did take one art class, but that’s not the subject of this post. The most useful class I took in high school, hands down, was personal typing.

This was the mid-1960s, so we sat at huge old manual typewriters while the teacher, Mrs. Calhoun, paced between the aisles correcting posture and hand position and occasionally expressing the opinion that we were wasting our time learning to type if we weren’t planning to work in an office. I can’t remember now how I felt about that, but thinking back on the experience, I can see that it had certain similarities to the piano lessons I took for a few years as a kid. I was never able to master that particular musical instrument, but I did develop a modest proficiency on the typewriter keyboard.

The skill has stood me in good stead ever since. The first typewriter I owned was a portable Smith Corona, still a manual. In college, I made extra money typing papers for other students. I wasn’t the best typist going, but I was a wiz with white-out, even on carbon copies.

When I got serious about a writing career, although it would still be several years before I sold anything, I bought an office model manual typewriter. It was huge, and heavy, but I wrote my first three published books on it, as well as a fair number of unsold projects—everything from science fiction short stories to very long, very bad historical novels.

I never did get the hang of electric typewriters, although I did own a portable one for a while. I had to use an IBM Selectric when I worked at the University of Maine’s Mantor Library back in the 1980s and I hated it. It just plain went too fast for me. My fingers got tangled up and the typos multiplied. Even with “correction ribbon” that was no fun.

me and my Tandy 1000 c.1987

Then along came the personal computer. I made a smooth transition to the keyboard of a Tandy 1000. Through a fair number of pc models since, I’ve never looked back. My fingers aren’t as agile as they used to be, so I make even more mistakes, but it’s oh-so-easy to correct them now. I hope Mrs. Calhoun would be proud. I use the skill she taught me every day, and I have sixty published books and numerous short stories to show for it.

What was the most useful class you took in high school? Leave a comment to answer that question and you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive an advance reading copy of my January title, A View to a Kilt.

With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.

This entry was posted in Kaitlyn's Posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to The Most Useful Class I Took in High School (and a chance to win an advance reading copy of Kaitlyn’s next mystery)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am torn. English, most likely, but learning to type in the commercial class is something I use every day. All day.


  2. Alice says:

    Probably Latin and Spanish. I love words & language. Used my Spanish when I lived in Europe in the 1960’s to speak to hotel workers. As a teacher (from preK to college, incl. Maine Senior College) a librarian, and an avid reader & crossworder, I use them both daily.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Typing was my most useful class in high school, too! I learned on an IBM Selectric, then at my first ‘real’ job I used a manual typewriter that used a cursive font and had a two-tone red and black ribbon. I switched to hunt-and-peck for a while, else I couldn’t hit the keys hard enough…

  4. Betty Tyler says:

    Mine was also typing. I actually ended up with 4 years and 5 classes of it. I loved it. It helped that I loved my teacher. She was amazing. I took shorthand as well, but found my own shorthand was much faster. I am so thankful that I did now that computers are so popular. I do always have to have a keyboard though. No laptop for me. And I even have to have a good keyboard, lol. Thanks for the chance to win.

  5. I failed typing big time-couldn’t (and still can’t) get my hands to work together. English, however was a great class because we had an opportunity to write our own one act plays and then the best were produced for a live audience…Mine was one chosen.

  6. charles buchal says:

    the most useful class i took was english with mr. saunders, may have been sanders
    . he taught me to write and that influenced both my college years and my professional career .

  7. sharoncales43coxnet says:

    I have to admit my favorite and most useful class in high school was TYPING!!!! I encountered all the same problems you did when trying to keep up with electric typewriters, but love computer keyboards. My daughter took my advice and took typing, she is now a real believer at the age of 49.
    Love your books and always look forward to a new one. Thanks for all the good reading times.

  8. Nikki Andrews says:

    I’d like to say it was English/grammar, but I learned that in elementary school. (Ah, Sister Teresa Mary and her ruler…) Like so many others, I’d have to say typing is the one skill I learned in HS that I still use every day. But one from my chemistry class is a close rival: we lit a candle and spent 10 minutes writing down everything we observed about it. We came up with about 40 notes, I think. I use that lesson all the time in cooking, writing, hiking, and plotting to take down the government. Wait, I didn’t just say that, did I?

  9. Prentiss Garner says:

    VocAtional Agriculture. In that class, I learned leadership skills, public speaking skills, and life skills.
    All of those helped prepare me for my teaching career.

  10. Gloria Browning says:

    The most useful thing I took was a research skills class that prepared me for college classes.
    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity! I have wanted to try the series.
    browninggloria(at)hotmail(dot) com

  11. Science Fiction as Literature. This class was the first place that a young guy with low self esteem learned to speak up. Not everyone might be happy about that though! LOL!

  12. amy says:

    Mine is typing as well! It is the only skill I have used at all of my jobs as an adult. Photography class is a close second. It was the only opportunity for learning how things and made an impression on developing that part of my brain.

  13. Cynthia Blain says:

    Love this post so much; I had quite a trip down Memory Lane while reading and thinking back many years ago! My business courses were specifically taken to prepare me for a business that I had hoped to start after college. My typing was invaluable as was shorthand (yes, I’m THAT old). Shorthand really was an excellent way to take notes in lectures or to make quick notes on a steno pad while reading and studying. But I found that my shorthand was also useful years later when i was raising two inquisitive children and when I would think of items for possible Christmas gifts, I’d write those notes in my “mystery language”. Never once did either of my kids ever figure out what I had gotten them and only the check marks along side my “scribbles” made them more or less happy figuring it meant one more box to open on Christmas morning. I would like to add that debating club also helped with child rearing and drama club helped me deal more calmly with my son’s occasional problem with overreacting in stressful (for him) situations! It’s amazing how much these classes influenced my life. And I did go on to owning a few businesses a number of years after college so thank you to those teachers who taught well and got students to apply these things well.

    Thank you and Congratulations on your release!

  14. Carol Knudtson says:

    I agree with you about the typing class. Definitely the most useful.

  15. Jane says:

    Kathy, I have to agree with you that typing probably was the most useful high school course that I took. It certainly made the transition to computers extremely easy, so I am very grateful that my mother insisted, even though there was no thought of my becoming a typist, secretary, or anything of that sort. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  16. linda semler says:

    Typing was extremely important to me, but we had a teacher that did not think that college prep students needed to learn typing. In her opinion only secretarial students needed this talent.
    Boy was she ever wrong!!!!

  17. karaleigh2 says:

    I think typing was probably my most useful class also.

  18. Colleen Dearborn says:

    English class

  19. Janet says:

    Physical education…not because I am an athlete, but because I am not. It was the place where humility and friendships were forged as well as the desire to be as pretty, thin and agile as the popular girls who were my mortal enemies. It came with the realization that I would never be enough. Never. And that was so far from the truth. I learned that places like PE would pop up in my life now and again perhaps to teach me to cut myself some slack and find my humor. Sure something in my life might be hard in a moment, but at least I did not have wear gym shorts and “attempt” to climb a rope in front of my peers.

  20. Julianne Spreng says:

    Typing is so instinctive that until you mentioned your typing class, I’d forgotten that I took one! The old business classes of typing and shorthand have saved me so-o-o-o much time over the years. If you don’t have a comfortable feel for the keyboard, you are going to waste a lot of time. The other class that stood me in good stead was grammar. I still use the rhymes we learned all those centuries ago. By the time my son was in school in the ’90s, they were no longer taught.

  21. bangorgirl says:

    English and Latin…both influenced my love and ability to read…and play WORD games. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take typing…self taught out of necessity for papers in HS and college and definitely in the working world.

  22. Autumn Trapani says:

    I think it was home economics was my most useful class. I learned to sew in that class, and it has been a skill that I’ve used throughout my life.

  23. Typing, hands down (pun intended, lol). I cringe when I see my hubby doing a “hunt and peck” when he is using his computer. This skill is something I use every day and have for many, many years!

  24. kaitlynkathy says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I enjoyed reading every one of them. Shadow has picked a winner! I gave each comment a number, crumpled up numbered slips of paper, and dumped them the floor. She made her selection by choosing one to chew on. The ARC of A VIEW TO A KILT goes to Sharon Cales. Happy Reading!

  25. Linda May says:

    The most useful class I took in high school was Typing & Shorthand, it came in very handy in my job search. Thanks for this amazing giveaway.

  26. Donamae Kutska says:

    I had a green one in the sixties a portable manual not electric

Leave a Reply