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Taking Notes

A few years ago in college, I was taking a history class. Like any class, we took many notes during lectures and were expected to review the material frequently. There was one girl, Jill, who often cut class. I will spare you the gratuitous details, suffice to say that we had worked together on a project and I learned she was very flighty and a bit self absorbed. Not altogether a bad person though.

Towards midterm, she complained to the teacher during class that she wouldn’t be able to do well on tests without the classnotes. The teacher cocked an eyebrow and pointed out that she should borrow the notes. Common sense, right? Her immediate friends didn’t volunteer, so after class I went up to her and offered my notebook to borrow until the next class.

I gave her my spiral bound notebook, and started to turn to gather my affects. I then heart a heart-breaking ripping. I whirled around as she had started tearing the notes out of the *spiral-bound* notebook. I managed to stop her before she had severed a week of notes thoroughly from the binding.

Jill eyed me balefully and whined, “Why can’t I just take the ones that I need?”
“No, it’s in a notebook. All the information is all together. In chronological order. If you take out chunks, then it isn’t organized for me,” I couldn’t believe that I needed to explain this, but hey, college is an institute of learning. I then had flights of fantasy about plucking my poor wounded tome out of her hands and making a break for the door. However, I felt a bit obligated to let her borrow them as I had well, offered to let her borrow them. I also figured that most damage had been avoided. I continued, “Take the whole thing, then copy the sections that you need and get it to me next week.” Yeesh.

Jill grumbled uncharitably about the extra weight, but accepted the notebook. No further incidents, I got back my notes the following week. I guess she just wasn’t empathetic enough to think that people don’t look fondly upon having their property torn up for her usage.   0730-10


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cat Whisperer January 18, 2012, 9:41 pm

    When I was in college, I had one hard-and-fast rule about people who wanted to borrow my notes: the University library had a copy machine. If the person who wanted to borrow my notes was willing to meet me at the library at a time that was at MY convenience, and they were willing to pay the cost of copying the notes, I would copy the pages they wanted. No exceptions.

    I’m in my 50’s now, and after going through undergrad school, then grad school, then working for 30 years, I’ve learned that there are people who go through life only too happy to shift the burdens of responsibility for whatever they are doing onto anyone who is stupid enough to volunteer to assist them. They will sucker you with sad, sad stories of things gone wrong; they will charm you with bright smiles and promises of eternal gratitude; they will guilt you with scarey stories of what will happen to them if you don’t reach out to help save them; and they will cop an attitude of entitlement that degenerates down into resentment or outright abuse if you have the temerity to refuse to carry the weight for them. These people are life-sucking parasites who lack any sense of responsibility for themselves and their actions, and have an absolutely boundless sense of entitlement. The quicker you learn to say “no” to these people, the easier your life will be: once they recognize that you have a spine and aren’t afraid to say “no” to them, they quickly move on to an easier victim.

    If you want to make your life a lot less complicated, practice the various ways of saying “no” to these people and not feeling bad about doing it. There is no etiquette rule that makes you the bad guy for refusing a request you regard as unreasonable, as long as your refusal is delivered politely. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t lend you my notes,” is all you need to say. If the person asking is rude enough to ask you why not, a polite “It just isn’t convenient,” is all you need to say.

  • Jennifer January 19, 2012, 12:07 am

    There are also some professions/professors that require a certain percentage of attendance in order to pass. In professional schools, if you miss a certain amount of class you can’t count it on your transcript.

    I always refused to give out my final exam outlines (what I used to study for those big final exams). Making them was how I studied – I wasn’t going to help someone else do something that would likely cause them to fail, plus my work product is my own and no one else’s.

  • Rug Pilot January 19, 2012, 1:30 am

    This was why I took notes in Cyrillic and wrote numbers in base 2.

  • Mechtilde January 19, 2012, 4:25 am

    Add me to those who would only lend notes to someone who had missed a lecture through illness or emergency.

    Arrangements can be made- I’ve even known lecturers allow their lecture to be taped for someone who was off sick- but then the person involved was someone who didn’t skip lectures…

  • MeganAmy January 19, 2012, 4:58 am

    Cat Whisperer, wise words! Well said.

  • Bint January 19, 2012, 6:22 am

    “The teacher cocked an eyebrow and pointed out that she should borrow the notes. ”

    Awful. If that were me I’d have asked her to see me after the class so I could ask her in private why she hadn’t been to the classes. And then I’d have given her some resources so she could make that study up, instead of palming it off onto other students. The chances are that if she’s studying history, someone else’s notes won’t help her anyway – you can read all the facts and still fail if you don’t understand exactly what you should be doing, as I know from several years as a history lecturer. Jill probably thinks it’s a soft subject where all she has to do is memorise some dates. Sigh.

    OP – don’t lend notes unless it’s someone who can be trusted and who has a good reason to ask. Skivers like Jill should just be avoided.

  • Kate January 19, 2012, 6:54 am

    OP, you were a lot more generous than I would have been!

    I rarely lend out notes. I make occasional exceptions for people I’m friends with, and who I know aren’t just taking advantage of the fact that I attend class. For example, one friend was suffering depression and found it hard to come to class, so I would let her know what was discussed and send her notes. I did this because I knew she would do the same for me if our situations were reversed.

    Disrespecting other people’s property is incredibly rude to begin with, let alone doing it when the person has just done you a big favour.

  • Margo January 19, 2012, 8:46 am

    Im with the majority. I wouldn’t have offered to lend my notes to someone who hadn’t bothered to show up. And if I had a brainstorm and made the offer, it would have been rescinded the second Jill damaged y note book.

    I also think that the professor handled it badly. I think by telling Jill she should borrow somone else’s notes this gave the impression (to Jill, and possibly to OP or other students) that it was reasonable for Jill to do this, and for others to lend their notes. I feel she ought to have told Jill that it was her own responsibility to turn up for classes and make notes, suggested that she review the readng list etc.

    When I was in University, my notes were in demand, espcially in my first yesr (I had a lot of class mates who had never learned how to make notes, and would get bogged down trying to transcribe the entire lecture. f the person asking was someone who had been in class but was struggling to keep up with note taking then I would usually let them look over my notes to fill in any gaps in theirs, but my notes didn’t leave my possession. If it’s not convenient to you to come to the library and check over my notes while I’m studying, that’s your problem not mine.

    If you have notes and want to review them together, that’s great – useful to us both.

    I’m glad OP got her notes back, and I really hope Juill learned to take responsibility for herself.

  • Steph January 19, 2012, 9:06 am

    I loaned my notes to a non-friend once in high school, and I’m never doing it again. The pages came back looking drenched; she had spilled water on them and didn’t even have the decency to apologize or look ashamed. Luckily the ink wasn’t too smudged, but I made her pay for copies of the notes she copied to give to me. The teacher overheard the whole exchange (because I got the notes back during the class) and did a big long speech about responsibility. Her face was beet red the whole time, and I didn’t care a whit.

    Anyway, I know do what many others here suggested and go to the library at my convenience with them where they can pay for copies. I’m so glad you got your notes back in good condition and hope that anyone out there who reads this and finds themselves in a similar situation just says no.

  • Wink-n-Smile January 19, 2012, 10:00 am

    One semester, I was stoney broke, and couldn’t afford to buy textbooks. I found it was actually cheaper to check the textbook out of the library and pay late fees. In some classes, I survived solely on my class notes, and never even read the textbook (Gotta love the teachers who teach better than the text!).

    I don’t remember ever loaning out my class notes, probably because I relied on them so heavily. But then again, my handwriting was so messy, I could read it, but others rarely could, so it was sort of moot. After reading this, I’m grateful my handwriting was so poor.

  • LovleAnjel January 19, 2012, 10:35 am

    As a professor, I will tell you that the prof in this case didn’t say “Borrow someone’s notes,” he said “See if one of your classmates will let you copy their notes.” The student turned that into “Prof said someone should give me their notes” to convince someone to help her out.

  • Library Diva January 19, 2012, 12:45 pm

    Not a professor, but I agree with LovleAnjel. I think what the professor was trying to convey was “You chose to skip the majority of the classes where the information was presented. Don’t look to me to do double the work and reteach this material solely for your benefit. Figure out how to get the information on your own, since you could do without attending the classes.” Sadly, if this story took place in America, the universities seem to have adopted a “customer-friendly” approach, this girl would whine to the dean and get her horrible grade overturned despite having thoroughly earned her F.

  • Mabel January 19, 2012, 2:43 pm

    Gah! I never loaned my notes. What I did instead was offer to go to the library with the person, where there were copiers available for a nickel or so a page. THEY would pay for it and I let them copy all the pages they needed, handouts, etc. I only had a couple of people take me up on it, though. I imagine the others were like Jill and just wanted me to give them over. No way! If you want notes, show up to class!

  • chechina January 19, 2012, 10:11 pm

    My university has an online course component for all classes where profs post the syllabus, extra readings, study questions and sometimes detailed class notes. Unfortunately, this also means that you can send “mass blasts” through the system to everyone in your class begging for notes.

    One class in particular is taught by a really non-engaging lecturer who literally reads her Powerpoint presentation out loud. She also posts this presentation online. And yet, for some reason, I get mass blasts begging for the class notes every week. I have had actually replied with, “Please look under ‘Lecture Notes’ and ‘Assigned Readings’ on the page you used to send your e-mail.” Surprisingly, I’ve never gotten thanked for this useful advice…hmm.

  • Melanie January 20, 2012, 2:07 am

    Cat Whisperer and Lerah, you rock.

  • Cat Whisperer January 20, 2012, 2:09 am

    Chechina, I had to smile at your posting: when I was an undergrad student 39 years ago, we didn’t have internet and so there were no mass postings, etc. But I had a professor very much like the prof you described.

    At the start of every class, he would pass out mimeographed handouts (if you’re too young to remember mimeograph, it was a primitive method of cheaply mass printing material if you didn’t have a printer or copy machine). Then he would stand in front of the class and proceed to read the handout, word for word!

    I and a couple of my friends who were taking the class that quarter were incredulous. When was he going to start going into detail that wasn’t included in the mimeographed handouts? When would he put something into his lectures that he didn’t read word-for-word straight out of the handouts?

    Well, long story short: he never did. This was a 7:30 AM class, and after the first couple of weeks, I and my two friends started a rotation: one of us would go to class and get the handouts and the other two of us would sleep in late. The one who went to class would get mimeographed handouts for the two who were sleeping in, and would take notes if necessary– which it never was.

    That was absolutely the weirdest college class situation I ever ran up against. We never could figure out why the professor just read from the handouts, what the point of having “lectures” was when he could have passed out the mimeos in the first five minutes of class and let us go, we would have gotten exactly the same value from the class. Very, very strange.

  • Margo January 20, 2012, 8:00 am

    I have been to some courses recently with ‘lecturers’ like that. (In my job, I am required to do 16 hours a year of ‘continuing professional deveopment’ so have to go on 2-3 courses each year)

    I always comment about this in the feedback as it seems very sloppy (and typically those presenters are very bad a dealing with Q&As or expanding on points in the notes when asked to do so)

    I suppose that being academically able in a particular subject does not automatically mean you are a good teacher, or a good communicator.

  • Caitlin January 20, 2012, 10:32 am

    Count me in with the people who rarely, if ever, lend their notes. We’ve got a website where we can access powerpoint presentations and (very occasionally) additional handouts, but my notes usally include huge amounts of extra detail – I write down anything I want to explore further, questions I want answered etc. and then type up all my notes after the lecture. I also bulk it out with anything I’ve read that seems useful, and eventually condense it down, so by the time the exams come round I have five or six pages per topic that represents all the work I’ve done that term.

    I would email copies of my notes to very close friends, but not to anyone else – why should they benefit from my hard work, when they haven’t bothered to do any of their own? My friends and I tend to exchange notes on the same topic anyway, as we find it helps to see other people’s perspectives. One of my friends found it particularly useful to get the same information organised in four or five different ways, but she would never have asked for someone else’s notes just because she’d decided not to do the work for herself.

    As for my handwritten notes, they’d probably be of no use to anyone anyway, as my handwriting is so atrocious. But even if I had suffered a moment of selflessness like the OP did and given my notebook away, those notes would have been back in my possession at the first rip. Jill would have to find another way to pass the class, and if she didn’t then maybe the experience would have taught her something!

  • Rica January 20, 2012, 2:56 pm

    @Rug Pilot
    I think I got one of your old textbooks.

  • Enna January 21, 2012, 5:37 am

    I think it is best to get the notes photocopied. Clearly Jill is not a bad person just a thoughtless one. With history you do need to do a lot of background reading so the notes alone won’t mean a good grade. I would have taken her to the library and she could pay for the photocopying. That way I would be 100 % certain that my notes would be safe – since she doesn’t turn up to lectures she might forget to return the notes. She was ripping the notes out – I wonder if she just wanted to keep the pages?

  • Jennifer January 21, 2012, 1:18 pm

    I should note – in college, the school actually paid me (and other students) for notes for students with disabilities – for instance, one student had a sign language interpreter – it was nearly impossible for him to write notes and keep up with lecture. (I’m assuming it was he was one of the students, he didn’t write notes, the whole process was anonymous).

    But we had photocopies and turned them in to the school through a totally anonymous process.

  • Ergala January 21, 2012, 3:47 pm

    I did something rather clever the past few semesters. I brought in my small laptop and typed my notes. We discovered that my notes when typed were extremely detailed and very good versus my hand written ones which were awful and left me wondering if I remembered anything said in class. Whenever people asked for notes I simply e-mailed them a copy.

  • Angela January 22, 2012, 10:26 am

    Library Diva, you will be happy to know that I teach at a college (not university) in the US and I can tell you for a fact that the girl’s whining would have gotten her nowhere. Deans and chairpeople used to be professors at one time and they’re onto that sort of thing.

  • MellowedOne January 22, 2012, 11:36 am

    To me it seems that, for individuals who habitually cut class, providing them with class notes is helping them firmly ingrain a bad habit they already have, one of lack of personal responsibility.

    Classmates who routinely depend on the hard work of others to get by often transfer that habit into the workplace, being the lazy co-worker that makes it difficult for everyone else.

    College is a learning experience, and not just in educating the mind. It’s also an opportunity for people to learn the skills they need to shape them responsible, dependable individuals in the workforce.

  • Cat Whisperer January 22, 2012, 10:36 pm

    MellowedOne said:

    “…College is a learning experience, and not just in educating the mind. It’s also an opportunity for people to learn the skills they need to shape them responsible, dependable individuals in the workforce.”

    Well said.

    One of those skills is learning how to politely say “no” and mean it when someone attempts to shift their responsibilities onto you.

  • JamieC January 23, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Cat Whisperer, I had an Astronomy teacher kind of like that. For a little under $5, the cost of making the copies, he would give you his lecture notes for the semester. The exam questions were word for word from the notes. His reasoning was that he like to have the lights off during lectures so he could show photos and videos and he did “pop” quizzes frequently to make sure you actually went to class.

  • erica September 10, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Oh…yes…drama queens who can’t be bothered to take notes but then scramble and cry to the instructor when finals roll around.

    We had one of those.
    She would cry to us about how hard her life was (all was self created chaos), take as many days as possible off early in the semester. Even came back one Tues telling us what a great time she had at the beach with her husband, showed off her obvious sunburn.
    then later when she actually was sick and had to take a day off …she risked being kicked out.
    The instructor tried to take her under her wing, kind of mold her into a responsible well mannered lady but it just didn’t work. Finally all the extra days off, special treatment got under our skin and we told the instructor about her taking days off to spend at the beach but claiming she was ill, her supposed car troubles that made her late were really something else entirely. The skipped labs and all the requests to borrow our notes. We were told to mind our own business (rightfully)…but the special treatment stopped and she was held accountable for her irresponsible behaviors.
    I for one, flat out refused to give her my notes. I mean I know everyone needs a mental health day once in awhile..but if WE could manage so could she.
    I could write a NUMBER of posts about her…. she was just…a hot mess.