Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Note-taking and Other Things...

Over at The Teacher's View I was rereading a post from a few days ago concerning the taking of notes. I was struck by the story at the beginning of the post about a former student's notebooks being left for trash, because I myself often keep meticulous notes and save my notebooks almost religiously. I was trying to put a name to what I felt about this picture of forced abandonment -- sadness? anger? fear? hopelessness? All these things. "Indeed," says Belloc in his Path To Rome , "it is a bitter thing to have to give up one's sword...". I imagine one day that I too will have to leave my constant companions behind -- is it naive to hope otherwise?

Note-taking, its seems to me, is becoming a lost art, much like penmanship. It seems almost strange that I keep precise notes because I am, for the most part, a rather disorganized person exteriorly, but I think that this is from force of habit (and maybe laziness!). Plus my excuse has always been that I have an organization of mind, and that's what really counts ;) Being a pro at taking notes was an infinite boon at university --

who knows how many times I didn't buy the books because I knew I could rely on my notes. Sometimes Economy demands something that Prudence would not otherwise advise. As far as tests went, I knew that if I took the time to listen in class and take precise notes then I would have less to study because it was already there, organized, in my brain. Thus my theory about laziness. A history teacher of mine once asked the class why we take notes. Answering for the class someone said "So that we can remember what the teacher said...(duh)". He shook his head and then enlightened us saying "Incorrect; you take notes so that you can forget what the teacher said." I determined then that I was not wasting my time so that I could forget.

I remember in seventh and eighth grade I had a history teacher who made it her business to teach us how to take notes. There was a very strict way of going about it, what with all the I. and a. and A. and B, indents in certain places, bullet points, numbers, sometimes an arrow or two, stars, and even the occasional precisely drawn map... etc, all very confusing and seemingly pointless at first. And frustrating! It all seemed like a bunch of busy work. I wanted a reason for all this hullabaloo and "you'll thank me later" didn't cut it. Why couldn't we just write what she said? After all, having been accustomed to dictations in the place of spelling tests, we all happened to be relatively fast as scribbling down, in a neat palmer method writing of course, most of what the teacher was saying.

However, as time went on, we could see that her notes were set up perfectly in the same manner and that one point flowed seamlessly to another. Her lecture was ordered, and so was our understanding of the material. Further, in a class like history, when a side point can take up three pages or more of notes, it helped to know that you were still under point "II." etc.... Those were tough years, but wouldn't you believe it soon became a habit to take concise notes like that in class, and to be able to pick out exactly what was important in the teacher's lecture no matter what the class? Learning how to take notes like that provided a framework within my mind, making the categorizing of information much clearer and more efficient. I suppose that makes the student sound like some kind of machinery, but it is true that our brains work in a mechanistic fashion, even if it is a more powerful mechanism than we can explain. I realize now she was teaching us how to think, not just to copy endless information. How to be logical, organized, make connections and draw conclusions. I realize now.

Oh teachers! What a thankless and misunderstood job it seems to be!
I thank you.


Mother of Perseus said...

I love this!
And so true, at that.

don't be emily said...

Thank you M. Jd'A :)

~im just only me~ said...

lol it's true, no?

don't be emily said...

Wish I could send my hubby to her for a few lessons as college starts....

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