433. Taking Notes

A few teachers tried to teach us how to take notes. And some of us learned how to do it. Gloriana, who later became our valedictorian, was great at it. Her notes were always arranged in outline form, and written in what looked to me like calligraphy. Sometimes, I’d watch her take notes, hoping to learn how she did it.
But most of the time, I paid more attention to the teacher. After all, wasn’t the teacher saying things I was supposed to be hearing and learning? I wasn’t very good at doing two things at once; if I was going to pay attention to the teacher, I was going to have to look at and listen to him/her. If I kept looking down at my notebook and writing, I would miss some of what the teacher was saying. I kept hoping taking notes wasn’t as important as teachers were saying it was.
When I was about to go to college, I panicked. Somehow, I’d made it through high school without knowing how to take notes, but now teachers were going to find out what I was really made of. In elementary school, we’d been told how much harder junior high would be, and in junior high, we were warned about the rigors of high school. I’d taken those warnings seriously, and there had been some truth to them, but somehow, I’d managed to make it through, and even get grades that were sometimes pretty good.
But now I was going to go to COLLEGE, where I’d be found out. Teachers (instructors? professors?) would assume that I’d had a good preparation for college, and they’d expect, among other things, that I’d be writing as they were talking. By then, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do that. I convinced my parents to buy me a portable tape recorder, and I used it for the first week of classes.
But when I got to my dorm and listened to my taped lectures, they sounded just like the lectures I’d attended. I could have transcribed the lectures, but I had the feeling that there were better ways to study, and besides, there were people ordering out for pizza, or folk dancing on the lawn. Those seemed like much better ways to spend time than trying to fill up a notebook.
I made it through college. I passed some courses that required me to take notes, and failed two. But mostly, I took courses that didn’t require notes. And I did pretty well in those courses. I was great at class participation. And I wrote pretty well. Graduate school was even better for me, because by then, I had figured out how to read course offerings, and I only took courses that were right for me.
But I never got good at taking notes. If a teacher was saying something I considered noteworthy, I wanted to listen, not write in a notebook. Afterwards, I remembered what was memorable, and forgot the rest. I’ve done all right anyway, but I sometimes wonder whether taking good notes would have made a significant difference in my life.

Comments are closed.