The Horror Known As Note-Taking

Taking Notes TimeWhat if I gave you a choice between walking through a pond filled with great white sharks or sitting in a room with twenty other teens, listening to the teacher drone on while taking notes?

I know that you’d choose the shark pond, mostly because you are less likely to die. I guarantee* that more people die of boredom while taking notes on a lecture than by being attacked by sharks, every year.

*Guarantee meaning that I want you to believe something. At least, that’s how they do it on infomercials.

Why are notes extremely dull and incredibly boring? Should they make this into a movie with Tom Hanks? Well, having experienced the horrible process of taking notes five days a week for a majority of weeks in the year for the last 8 years, I can tell you definitely that I don’t know. My brain’s ability to think on its own has been crushed. Maybe we can figure it out.

Notes start with one of three horrible utterances from the teacher’s mouth: “Class, take out your note books, please,” “Get out a piece of paper and something to write with,” or “Who here has either a pacemaker, an irregular heartbeat, or is pregnant? Federal law says I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Then, you’ll actually get out your materials to take notes. Instantly, the flashbacks start, crushing your hopes that this time, notes might not be so bad. As you flip to the next blank page, you pass these memories: the illegible notes you took while half-asleep, the notes you took with your opposite hand for entertainment because your brain was about to go into a coma, the completely illegible notes you took while asleep, the twelve pages of notes you took in one marathon, the notes that stop in the middle of the page because your hand had a small seizure, etc.

This experience alone has nearly brought you to tears, and you haven’t even started taking today’s notes yet.

Right about now, the teacher has started their lecture. More often than not, they are reading off of a powerpoint slide that is also extremely dull and incredibly boring (Tom Hanks, I challenge you to make this more interesting…). You, of course, try to frantically get down all of the important info.

I have some bad news: you will never be able to write fast enough to take down everything your teacher says. You probably already knew this. Of course, being teens, that’s not going to stop either one of us from trying. What do they say about this kind of thing, again? Oh yeah: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” Or maybe it was “Some things are not meant to be.” One of those two.

Eventually, your mind will slowly numb, and it will feel like the teacher’s words are reaching your brain through a blanket. Thankfully, your hand will still work, so at about this time you will start writing words that make no sense.

I don’t just mean these words make no sense as in you’re leaving out a lot of things, like
“1776. Washinton. Civil War. Depreson. Civil Rits…” I mean the words will make absolutely no sense, like “Purple. Made in China. ABCDEFGH. The name’s Bond. James, Bond.”

After about twenty minutes of this, your teacher will notice how deadly silent the class is. Sure, you’ve been silent the whole time, but in bad situations, a few of you may actually be dead. At this point, they feel it is proper to start asking questions and ‘involve’ the class.

Depending on your condition, you may or may not be able to answer the questions. The key is to be confident and, if you don’t know the answer, ask a scholarly question of your own. So, the average questioning session in a class usually goes like this:

Teacher: “Alright, class, now who can tell me what one of the causes of World War One was? Jimmy?”

Jimmy: “Well, maybe guns?”

Teacher: “That’s sort of close, Jimmy. But you should have had it in your notes. Let me see if you had it written d…’Blue Toothpaste?’ Jimmy, why is there all this gibberish in your notebook? ‘I’m afraid. I can feel my mind going. I can feel it. Dave…’ Jimmy, have you even been taking notes? Detention. For the rest of your life or until death, whichever comes last. What about you, Alexander? Do you have a cause of World War One?”


Teacher: “Hmm. Alexander appears to be incapacitated. Can somebody check his pulse? Thanks. Also wipe up that bit of brain trickling from his ear. How about you, Phil, or do you need detention as well?

[Me, using that brilliant strategy I mentioned above]: “Well, I was actually about to ask you a question: did the rest of the world passively watch as these causes of the war slowly came into being?”

Teacher: “GREAT QUESTION, Phil. Let’s examine that for a moment. Well, in eastern Asia you had…”

Thus, the teacher is diverted onto a new subject, and you can avoid detention. Sure, they might ramble on about that until the bell, but at least you’re done taking the actual notes.

Sadly, this is about as good as it gets, because note taking is as unavoidable as being buried every time you open your closet. The good news is, I’m pretty sure Alexander’s case was extreme. Things like that only happen once a week at my school.

Since you have to take notes, you probably want something to write with. In “The Great Pencil Debate,” posted at this time last year, you’ll learn what sort of writing implement meets your needs the best, whether it be a pencil, mechanical pencil, or spaghetti noodle.

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