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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.

  • Sarah Peart January 18, 2012, 4:54 am

    A good deed never goes unpunished! To be honest there is no way I would have let my notes out of my sight after that – maybe I would have accompanied her to the photocopier but that would have been the end. My rule is – the person who is careless when I am there is not suddenly going to be extra careful when left alone! This is the result of a lifetime of experience!

  • MeganAmy January 18, 2012, 4:54 am

    Wow! No good deed goes unpunished! At least you got all your notes back. She sounds so flighty that I would have been worried about that.

    In my university, most of our classes were graded on a curve. Extremely unscrupulous and competitive students were motivated to make others do poorly on exams so that their own grades would go up.

    There was a girl in my major who one night borrowed notes from almost everyone our year our major in our dorm saying she’d photocopy them and return them promptly. This was the evening before a big exam. Then, she disappeared and wouldn’t return our calls. She was hoping to prevent the rest of us from using our own notes to study! So she’d have an advantage at the exam! After I called her a few times and didn’t get a hold of her to get my notes back, I searched the dorm and eventually found her. When I found her (far from her room) she sneered “I haven’t had a chance to copy your notes yet.” I said “Too bad. I need to study.” I took my notebook back and never lent her notes again when she asked.

  • Dani313 January 18, 2012, 5:17 am

    Personally I would not have let her take the notes after she began ripping them out of the notebook. You offered the notes and instead of being grateful she destroyed your notebook. Someone who who rip notes out of someone’s notebook without their permission is clearly selfish and I would have feared what would have happened to my notes in her possession. During undergrad I loaned my notes every week to a friend who was working and going to school full time to support his mom. He returned my notes every week in pristine condition and I earned favor with the professor. During graduate school I loaned my notes to a classmate and the next week she said she had lost them. After a few weeks she again asked for my notes and when I refused she got upset and called me selfish.

    I understand everyone has their situations and may not be able to attend every class. But, of someone is kind enough to loan you their notes be grateful and don’t rip up their notebook.

  • Susan January 18, 2012, 5:32 am

    You were very generous to lend her the notebook even after she damaged it. I am afraid that after she ripped those pages I would have had to take it back. I would have been concerned that she would not take care of it or possibly would not return it. I am glad it all worked out.

  • TheVapors January 18, 2012, 6:13 am

    Very kind of you to offer your notes to a person whose own friends didn’t want to offer their notes. (I’m imagining they already knew Jill wasn’t responsible in that manner, and didn’t want their own property ruined.)

    I think I would’ve taken her to a copier on campus or the campus library and made photocopies of the notes she needed.

    Jill, unfortunately, really does sound completely oblivious. You showed a polite spine, at the very least, in telling her it was unacceptable for her to tear out pages of your notebook.

  • ferretrick January 18, 2012, 7:01 am

    A good life lesson: If you would be upset if an item is broken, damaged, lost, or simply never returned, do not loan it to anyone. This is especially true of money, but it applies to everyday objects too.

  • Aje January 18, 2012, 7:10 am

    DId she not think of photocopying them?

    I took a lot of Spanish courses in college so my notes were always a mess of half english, half spanish, I tended to write in whichever language I happened to be thinking in at the time. However my classmates and I all borrowed each others notes constantly (you think learning history or economics is difficult in English? Try learning it in another language!). I never had any problems, and I was always really careful with my classmate´s notes which were usually a lot neater and more organized than mine. Granted, no one ever explained to me that it was the right thing to do… isn´t that just kind of common sense? Sheesh.

  • Lisa Marie January 18, 2012, 7:13 am

    I was waiting for you to say you never got the notebook back. She should have been there to take her own notes or suffered the consequences.

  • Jennifer January 18, 2012, 7:30 am

    I’m sorry – but you never, ever should have trusted her with your notebook.

    I’ll help a friend out if they were missing class, but there’s a point where you cut people off – it doesn’t do anyone any favors to help them cut class.

  • --Lia January 18, 2012, 7:37 am

    “No further incidents, I got back my notes the following week.” Whew! I was thinking this was going to be one of those stories where you didn’t get your own notes back in time to study from them. It’s a lesson we learn. Never loan something of value to someone you know to be flighty. Maybe that should be never loan something irreplaceable to anyone under any circumstances. I can’t help noticing that her immediate friends didn’t volunteer. Says something right there. Class notes, unless you have copies, are as valuable as the tuition you paid for the class in the first place.

  • Wendy January 18, 2012, 9:12 am

    Wow. When I was in college and a classmate needed notes, they usually volunteered to photocopy them…we’d go to the nearest copy machine and chat while the notes were being copied.

    When she started ripping the pages I think I would have either a) told her she couldn’t have the book any longer and find the notes elsewhere, b) taken her to the nearest copy machine or c) made her copy them right there. You were lucky!

    I’m curious, though, where she is now in life and if she ever learned more responsibility?

  • Jen January 18, 2012, 9:14 am

    I NEVER lent out my notes. My opinion was if you couldn’t come to class it wasn’t my responsibility to provide you notes to the lecture you missed.

  • Xtina January 18, 2012, 9:28 am

    I think it is probably in the OP’s best interest to offer to accompany anyone who wants to borrow his or her notes to the copier and stand by why the borrower makes copies. It is not a good idea to loan out the sole copy of something that you own–the OP caught Jill before she destroyed the notes in this case, but she could have easily lost them, marked all over them, or tore them up. Some people will never understand how come others’ possessions are valuable and should be taken care of.

    I used to swap notes with a classmate in freshman history class during college, and I guess I was lucky because he and I always made (hand-written) copies and returned each other’s notes in pristine condition. But come to think of it, I guess I should have been more careful in the beginning before I really knew him, because it could have turned out the same way as this story. Live and learn!

  • Rae January 18, 2012, 9:32 am

    Maybe I am mean, but I would not have offered in the first place. If she is purposely skipping class without a valid reason, why should someone help her out? She snoozes, she looses.

  • Kathy January 18, 2012, 9:38 am

    Jill complained to her teacher about the classnotes when she didn’t bother to attend class on a regular basis? And the teacher told her to borrow them? I don’t understand Jill or the teacher, but the letter writer seems generous and has learned a lesson for the future.

  • Green123 January 18, 2012, 9:42 am

    I’d have walked her to the photocopier and stood there watching over her as she copied the pages she needed. No, actually, I’d probably not have let her have the notes in the first place. Sorry. If she missed classes through illness or bereavement, fine, but if she just cut class, well, tough.

  • Wink-n-Smile January 18, 2012, 9:45 am

    I’m glad it turned out well, and I guess she learned her lesson, at least enough to apply it to you. I don’t know how she treated other people’s notes.

    I’m with those who say the best course of action is to accompany her to the photocopy machine and stand by while she makes the notes. Alternatively, if you have a laptop (as many students today consider essential), you could email the notes to her.

    Sorry your notes were damaged at all, though. Sheesh.

  • gramma dishes January 18, 2012, 9:54 am

    You mention that she frequently cut class. I have no sympathy for anyone who doesn’t attend class and take their OWN class notes unless there is an illness or some sort of personal tragedy involved. It doesn’t sound like either of those was the case here. It seems she was just too lazy to get herself to class and relied on the rest of you to basically do her work for her.

    Frankly I’m glad but honestly amazed that you got your notes back! I saw a different ending coming.

  • Zhoen January 18, 2012, 10:00 am

    I never loaned or borrowed notes in college. I would study with anyone, explain what I understood at any time – it’s a great way to test one’s own understanding. But education is what you do for yourself, you can’t learn for anyone else, and they can’t learn for you. My notes helped me hear better, it’s part of the process of learning. Anyone who can’t take good notes needs to learn to, or find another way to remember. They have to understand the material themselves.

    With exceptions for those like the fellow student Dani313 helped. Special circumstance.

    In a way, LW stole this opportunity from her to fail and find her own way through. Being nice is not always the *right* thing.

  • PeevedProf January 18, 2012, 10:18 am

    As a college professor myself, I can almost guarantee that the type of student who would pester the professor for notes and then destroy another student’s notes is the type of student who would whine to that poor professor about her inevitably bad grade on that test.

    Unfortunately, this type of obviously selfish student is increasingly common in college classrooms these days. I feel bad for the more responsible student OP, and for the professor.

  • livvy17 January 18, 2012, 10:21 am

    I don’t think I would have volunteered in the first place – if she was interested in learning, she should have come to class. Notes are valuable – almost all the big lecture classes at my large state university had someone in there taking notes for a company who would then sell you copies of these “professional” notes. Even 20 years ago, these were something like $300 per class/per term.
    I might loan notes to a friend, but not to someone I couldn’t trust. Once she started ripping, I’m amazed you let the notes out of your sight! You’re a much more trusting soul than I!

  • Parka Pat January 18, 2012, 10:24 am

    Never, NEVER, let someone else take your class notes. If someone needs the notes, you can accompany that person to a photocopier where they will pay for the process. If the person is someone you trust, then you can get them photocopied yourself, keep track of the cost, then turn over the photocopies when the person pays you for the cost.

    I used to teach a university class. I proactively told students at the beginning of the semester exactly that. There are too many cases of a sneaky student “borrowing” the notes of the better students, then “losing” them so as to bring the other students’ grades down and raise their own.

  • Lucy January 18, 2012, 10:27 am

    There is no way I would have lent her the notebook. For one, I would never have considered her trustworthy enough not to lose/damage [further] it, or to get it back to me on time.

    Two: She should have come to class and taken her own notes. If she were ill, she could have gotten a doctor’s note, but if she just didn’t bother to come, she fully deserved to fail.

  • Magicdomino January 18, 2012, 10:35 am

    And now the OP knows why her friends wouldn’t lend her their notes. I, too, think the OP is lucky to have received the notebook back.

  • badkitty January 18, 2012, 10:37 am

    While I happily share my notes with friends (and others who ask nicely) I do not share my notes with people who didn’t bother to attend the lecture. If I know they were sick or something and it was just the once, exceptions can be made, but my notes are MY key to success and I am under no obligation to share it with anyone (and in any class graded on a curve, nobody shares notes – that’s just giving your grade away to some mooch!) If I had ignored all of these personal rules and handed this person my notebook, she would have seen the very last of it as soon as she started tearing out pages. Grumbling about the extra weight? How lazy is this girl?!?!

  • Lerah January 18, 2012, 10:42 am

    Kudos to the letter writer for being so generous and having such faith in her fellow classmate. Jill was thoughtless when she went to tear the letter writer’s notes out of the sprial notebook. The fact the letter writer still allowed Jill to borrow the notes shows a wonderful willingness to give Jill a second chance. I’m so glad that the notes were returned without further damage or incident.

    I am working full time and attending school now. (It makes me feel positively ancient at 31 sitting in classrooms with 18 and 19 year old students.) When people ask me for my notes, I ask for their email address. Then I take pictures of the notes and email them.

    The only exception I made was in my World Religions class. One student was hard of hearing and had a learning disability which made taking notes a real trial for him. Our student aid office gave him carbon paper so someone could take notes and then give him the carbon copy. Since my handwriting is readable and I tend to take organized notes in outline form, he requested me as his designated note taker. In exchange the student aid office let me register early for the next semester’s classes.

    While I admire the letter writer’s faith and compassion in helping Jill even after the notes were damaged, I am too cynical to let my notes out of my hands.

  • Ann January 18, 2012, 10:51 am

    My reaction is to the professor. I think it was a tad rude of him to pass her problem along to his other fee-paying, class-attending students rather than addressing her directly. Eg “If you don’t have notes, you haven’t been attending class, and the mark you get on the midterm is your own doing”.

  • Meghan January 18, 2012, 11:19 am

    Wow, OP, you’re more generous than I am. I rarely lent notes, and then only to people I really trusted. Though I must admit, my notes were never in high demand. I take notes in a sort of weird shorthand that only I understand. My roommate and I took a class together in college, and when she wanted to borrow notes, she would go to our friend across the street to borrow notes instead of using mine.
    When I was in law school, most people took notes on their laptops, so if you needed notes your friend could just e-mail them to you, and no one had to worry about their personal copy being lost or ruined. I still took most of my notes by hand, but I did sit with a friend a few times to decipher my notes for them when we studied together. But I think the advent of laptops in the classroom will really make problems like this pretty obsolete.

  • Gee January 18, 2012, 11:41 am

    Wow OP, you still let her borrow your notebook after that? I would have not let it out of my sight! I would have perhaps photocopied it for her, but it would not have left my hands. I’m glad to hear you got it back!

  • AS January 18, 2012, 12:03 pm

    No wonder her “close friends” did not let her borrow their notes. They knew what they might be getting into.

    But hey, you atleast got back the note in a week. I have had people who didn’t return borrowed notes until it was too late, and I could not study for the exams! I learned to stop giving my notes to chronic absentees. If I gave, it was someone I trusted, or I’d ask the borrower to photocopy the pages they needed, and return immediately (I’d usually go with them to get them photocopied).
    It is unfortunate, but it does not always help to be a good samaritan. Too many selfish people spoil it for the few nice ones out there.

  • Mary January 18, 2012, 12:05 pm

    Maybe I would be considered rude, but I never loaned my notes to anyone in college unless they missed class due to illness, funeral or some “real” reason. If they were cutting class, they can go without the notes for that day.

  • Hollis January 18, 2012, 12:06 pm

    If she cannot make the effort to attend class, then let that be her lesson. While it is very generous of you to let her borrow your notes to copy, it is her responsibility to attend class, takes notes,etc. Her grade is her responsibility and she really needs to grow up.

  • Ballerina January 18, 2012, 12:19 pm

    The person with the notes was way too n ice.

  • Kay January 18, 2012, 12:23 pm

    This is one reason I’m glad I retype my notes for my own use right after class (since my handwritten ones are usually a mess).

    “Can I borrow your notes to copy?’

    “What’s your email? I’ll send them to you by this evening.”

    It’s always interesting when word gets around that I have typed notes. The night before an exam I’ll usually get a half dozen emails asking for them.

  • Ashley January 18, 2012, 12:32 pm

    I was SOOOO OCD about my notes all through school. I am literally cringing right now at the thought of someone doing that to my notebook. Perhaps her friends knew this was something she might do and that’s why they didn’t volunteer their notes?

  • Cat January 18, 2012, 12:32 pm

    I did the same thing my senior year. A woman I had never seen showed up in class, wanted all my notes, and I let her take them. Thankfully, she did return them, but I worried all week that all my notes were going to be gone.

    Older by forty years, I would now offer to copy all my notes for her if she would give me the money for the copier.

  • RMM0278 January 18, 2012, 12:47 pm

    I’m confused as to why no one has brought this up yet. If you miss class for no good reason (as this person did), then you’re entitled to jack and squat. I understand that the LW felt compelled to help someone else out, but this person was cutting class. It’s not like she had to miss 1 or 2 classes because of a personal emergency. It was out of sheer laziness. Why would the LW want to help this person out at all?

    Perhaps this woman felt so entitled to rip something out of someone else’s notebook because the world has been catering to her laziness. Maybe if NO ONE gave her any support, then she would learn on her own by rightly failing the class.

  • A January 18, 2012, 1:16 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but I would have offered to go to a copier and copy my notes for her. I wouldn’t have given my whole notebook because I tend to refer back to my notes frequently.

    Hopefully “Jill” learned a lesson about responsibility.

  • Amanda January 18, 2012, 1:33 pm

    I stopped loaning out handwritten notes in high school, after I had a few people borrow my notes before an exam and then “forget” to give them back to me (leaving me out of luck for the exam). If someone really needed to borrow my notes in college, we could walk over to the copy center together and I could watch them copy the notes.

    By grad school, pretty much everyone typed their notes. So, all you had to do was email the notes to the person who asked for them.

  • Jennifer January 18, 2012, 1:50 pm

    At least you got them back……………….

  • Miss Sweetbones January 18, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Ack! That’s one of my pet peeves. I absolutely hate it when people are disrespectful of my things. I always try to return things in better condition than they were when I borrowed them.

    That being said, I think I see where she was coming from. She probably didn’t want to leave you totally notes-less and thought that she would take what she needed and return the rest so you could study the other lessons. Still, she definitely should have asked. What a ditz!

  • Miss Raven January 18, 2012, 2:18 pm

    The OP is kinder and more forgiving than I would have been. I would have taken this as a sign that I was never going to see the notebook again, and in college your notes are absolutely essential. I honestly don’t know if I even would have tried to explain to her why what she was doing was inconsiderate. I feel like if you are an adult and don’t have the common sense to not destroy someone else’s possessions (which is exactly what she was doing) for your own gains, nothing I say can help you.

    I probably would have retrieved the notebook right then and there and left without another word. OP gets major props for being so gracious in the face of outright boorishness.

  • Jules January 18, 2012, 2:18 pm

    This is why I do not lend notes, ever. If someone has a good reason to miss classes and I want to help them, I either email them the notes or, if I only have them in handwriting, I copy them myself or watch them being copied. They never leave my sight. When I read that you had let her keep your notebook I fully expected to hear that she lost it or you had to ask her a hundred times to get it back – I’ve seen some variation of this happen too many times.

  • Dear! January 18, 2012, 2:24 pm

    When I was in college there were usually alot of kids who chose not to come to class and when they were there didn’t take many notes. ….Sadly, I was one of those. (Shame on me I know.) But I was a quick learner and got good grades. I had a text book so I taught myself what I missed in class. (Not the best decision since each college class costs about $60, but I was young and dumb. Youth is wasted on the young afterall.)

    However, many of my fellow slackers often felt entitled to someone else’s hard work. They would sell their text books back at the beginning of the term so that they could pocket the cash their parents spent on them, many times at a huge loss, and would just about demand to use other’s people’s text books and notes. I found this disgusting. I was a slacker, but I had some ethics. And the sad part was, they disrupted their fellow student’s study time, and often still failed! Sad thing is, these are the types of people who still get very far in life…..

  • Rifish January 18, 2012, 3:23 pm

    What a classy girl! Doesn’t take her own notes and then destroys yours when you generously offer them. Count me among those who are surprised you got your notebook back.

    I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t lend anything I’d really miss unless it’s to someone who has proven to be respectful and responsible.

  • meruncc13 January 18, 2012, 3:55 pm

    I’m glad that you got your notes back. Being a college student myself what I have done was to accompany her to the library to the copier or scanned them in myself (I have a scanner at home) and sent them to her as a .pdf file.

    Actually, why didn’t the instructor pull her aside and ask why she didn’t take any notes during the semester? Believe me, if this was an upper level history class, she really needed to take plenty of notes to pass the midtern (I am talking from experience – and I am a History major!)

  • Ceallach January 18, 2012, 4:17 pm

    I would never lend notes to a lazy classmate – why should they benefit from my work? Plus there is a risk of plagiarism if they were to copy some of my comments verbatim. I think the OP was being way too nice here.

    Of course I would help if somebody had a good reason for missing class (illness, bereavement, etc) but apart from that – Bed.Made.Lie.

  • LS January 18, 2012, 4:41 pm

    “Her immediate friends didn’t volunteer…”
    Red Flag #1.

    “…she had started tearing the notes out…”
    Red Flag #2.

    “Jill eyed me balefully and whined, ‘Why can’t I just take the ones that I need?’”
    Red Flag #3.

    “Jill grumbled uncharitably about the extra weight…”
    Red Flag #4.
    I stick with the “One strike and you’re out” rule, myself.

  • JustEstelle January 18, 2012, 7:54 pm

    Sorry, but I would not voluntarily lend notes to someone who couldn’t be bothered to attend class.

  • Angela January 18, 2012, 9:05 pm

    I teach at a college and I have seen a lot of note-borrowing. College students do want to help each other and will usually lend freely until they’re burned. I’ve not seen the ripping but I have known quite a few cases where a student borrowed someone’s notes and took forever to return them…but often the person lending the notes doesn’t get any contact information, which isn’t exactly smart. A couple of times the person who borrowed the notes dropped the class and the rightful owner never got them back!

    A few years ago I started recording all my lectures and posting the recordings. Among other things, it really reduced the note-borrowing drama.