Note to Self: Why I Don’t Mind Sharing My Notes

"Hi there. I've been away the last couple of classes. I was wondering, can you send me your notes?" We've all been there (if we've been regular attendees at school). You know who I'm talking about (maybe you are the person I am talking about), the stranger who asks you for your notes point blank. This scenario has come up in lifeatuoft meetings, where a clear division has been made between those of us willing to donate their notes and those of us who outright refuse. I've found myself a target for notes because I am a typist. People can clearly see what I'm doing on my laptop and figure it's easier to get notes emailed than spend time photocopying and trying to decipher a stranger's penmanship. To be honest, I've always been more than willing to hand over my notes. Most of the time. The few exceptions to this policy is when a classmate sends out a mass email to the entire class begging for notes because they were sick (although some people admit they were on an extended vacation). The only other time I flat-out ignored a person's request for my notes was when a student copied my first and last name from the attendance sheet, stuck behind it and sent me an e-mail the night before a test requesting my notes. Drumroll, please: Erin, I am writing under the spirit of familiarity and so I hope this missive isn't unsettling or alarming. Speaking plainly, I need your help, in the form of notes from class. I attended every lecture and owing to my strong memory, I thought I could remember the key  points made but I overlooked the issue of capacity: with other classes warranting attention, the torrent of information has proven too much for my brain to ensnare completely. And so I make this application. If I've offended your sensibilities I apologize. Sincerely, STRANGER WHO I HAVE NEVER TALKED TO IN CLASS AND COPIED MY NAME FROM THE ATTENDANCE SHEET Although I found this student's impression of Mr. Darcy absolutely hilarious (and his refusal to admit he was exceptionally lazy), the request seriously came out of nowhere. I actually recognized the name of the student (because he would make general comments in class that didn't relate to the readings) and recalled that he never lifted a pen or pencil to paper. I decided, he didn't deserve my notes the night before a test. Amazingly, when I saw him the next day he totally denied sending me the e-mail the previous night! But besides that one time, I've always surrendered my notes to students on the condition that they aren't allowed to e-mail them to other students. After all, I consider my notes intellectual property and I don't want to get penalized for an academic offence if someone copies directly from them. I made this rule when a student actually traded my notes with another classmate.  I also sometimes make students do a teeny bit of self reflection when they ask me for my notes because I've noticed that my peers don't even bother introducing themselves or asking me what my name is. Yes, I realize students don't want to be my bffs but I find the whole "I'm only acknowledging your presence because I want your notes" approach slightly robotic. Also, I'm not trying to pull a power trip but create a little community here. After someone asks me point blank for notes, I usually ask, "So...what's your name again?" Most of the time, the student will recognize how rude he or she sounds. If you're going to ask someone for something, have the decency to introduce yourself and maybe show a little interest in getting the person's name. The one thing I don't ask, is why a student has missed class. It's not that I don't care, I just don't think it's any of my business. I remember before an exam, a notoriously absent student who I sent notes to, plopped down beside me. I asked her how she was doing and she told me she was "coping". With a teary smile, she not only thanked me for my notes but was particularly grateful that I never asked why she was away so much. She then revealed the reason why she missed so many classes; over the winter break, her boyfriend was killed in a car crash. One can guess the emotional exhaustion that comes from explaining and re-explaining an absence and tragedy several times to peers and professors. She also told me our professor asked her if she was able to get notes from a student and she mentioned my name, and made a comment about my generosity. The professor actually agreed with her. I'm not saying you should give and expect recognition in return but I think simple acts of kindness don't go unnoticed. You also never know when you'll be in that situation. Imagine if, for some reason, you miss the first weeks of school because of something you couldn't predict and you are in a classroom without a single recognizable face. It's not your fault you were never able to strategically make a "note buddy" at the beginning of the semester. Now imagine, someone is nice enough to give you their notes, free of charge, suspision and hassle. I'd certainly be thankful to receive that sort of support in a time of need. I understand that university breeds competitiveness and that we all want to end up on top, but I don't think I'm willing to play the game in a vicious or selfish way. I always feel better knowing that I beat out the best which means helping the "competition", whether it's in the form of notes or extending myself in another capacity. I truly think we are only as good as those around us. And I'm not speaking in terms of marks, but as people. Erin    

20 comments on “Note to Self: Why I Don’t Mind Sharing My Notes

  1. I totally get what u mean
    I even got classmates coping everything- my writing fonts, my diagrams, and even the whole layouts (like double spaced or the diagrams I drew)

  2. Dear “e” (if this was real life, you know I’d be asking you what your name is),
    Your notes sound way more impressive than mine (diagrams!?!). Thanks for sharing (your comment…and your notes)!

  3. I’m in high school, and some of my classmates text their friends in class and not take notes. Then, later on they copy mine, and I just hate it when they copy everything exactly from my notes. (There’s some diagrams we have to draw in physics, math and biology)

  4. Hi e,
    Unfortunately, people still text during lectures at U of T. I can understand why you feel like you are being taken advantage of and may not want to give your notes away. I’d create a golden rule to only give notes to people who are absent.

  5. Hi Erin,
    thanks for being that person that shares notes. As someone with both a physical disability and mental health concerns, I can’t always be in class or keep up with the lecture. I have to ask for notes from both people I know and those I don’t, and often I never receive a reply. I find the act of asking a bit embarrassing, since I have to admit I’m not on par with my peers in terms of notetaking ability. I really respect your policy on not asking why someone’s been away, though I usually volunteer that information since I feel the person going out of their way to give me notes needs to understand I don’t mean to take advantage of their kindness by being absent all the time. Thanks for such a great post.

  6. Sarah,
    Thank you so much for commenting. Comments truly mean the most to me and I find feedback particularly touching when people actually post their real names (you’re a rarity Sarah!). I really hope students read this post (and your comment) because I think it’s important to imagine how it feels to be the person who has to ask a stranger for notes. It can sometimes be an awkward lesson in power relations and, as you’ve mentioned, not the most pleasurable experience. But it’s something we, as students, have the ability to change by being aware and sensitive to other people in the classroom, smiling and just asking, “how are you today?”.
    Also, can I tell you that I looked at your personal blog and think you’d make an amazing UpbeaT blogger next year? 😉

  7. Thanks a lot . I was furious a while ago at the thought of my precious notes being copied. I never knew I was the kind of person who would get irritated by this stuff but reality got the best of me .After I read what you said it felt good because I finally understood that life goes on and we need each others help and was totally missing the point .Thank you ..Arigatou ^^

  8. I’m the opposite…sorta… I actually go to University of Toronto Schools which is the UofT high school and I HATE when people I don’t know ask for my notes…especially my exam notes. I find it so annoying that they can’t even be bothered to take notes or prepare or anything and then they ask for my notes the night before. I’m a “typist” too so it’s often me who is the one being asked. I find it so annoying.

  9. I apologize for any spelling and grammar I will make – I’m not a native English speaker.
    I googled “should I give my notes” and it brought me here. I’m facing this problem for the first time and that’s why I’m still looking for the best way to deal with it. I’m currently a med student in my 2nd year and because I live in Europe, the whole educational system is completely different than yours (that’s what you should blame in case some things seem strange).
    My classes this year start at 8 am each day, from Monday to Thursday and only Friday at 2 pm. After a 2-hour class, we usually have a 2-hour break, then another class and so on. 3 days a week I leave the Uni at 8 pm. This is the reason why I value time and I don’t like to share my notes.
    We are divided into 10-student groups and 2 of my colleges have the nerve to ask me each weekend for all my notes. I should mention that at 3 out of 6 subjects we are supposed to write what the professor is dictating because there is no other book they would agree for us to use when we are studying (typical Eastern European “intelligence”).
    I wasn’t educated to be mean, selfish or even competitive. I was raised as a good person, as someone who shares what she has. But my limits are being pushed this year. The 2 I was talking about come only to the compulsory classes, which means they get aprox. 2 days a week not even coming to the Uni at all.
    So I am now facing a situation I have never faced before. I never had a problem giving my notes to people who didn’t manage to write everything and they need them to complete theirs, also not a problems with those who miss a class or 2 for various reasons. But I have never been asked so bluntly for my work, to just give it up as it had no value at all. I honestly need a second opinion, because I find it very difficult to say no them, but I also realize this will go on until the end of med school.

    1. Damn, I so connect with you. People at my university do it all the time. I think the best way is to say very politely “look I guess you guys should be working by yourself” or ask the professor to announce it in the class to check notes of every student and check for plagiarism.

  10. Thanks Erin, for offering a different perspective rather than being selfish and thinking others should have been at class. Sometimes you don’t know what others are dealing with.

  11. I found your experience amazing and influenced me to ask others “So… what’s my name?” ;v not to be ignorant but to get to know the stranger who ask for my notes. Thank you for your words because this subject has become very stressful for other and I because of the hard work we put into our work.

  12. What about those people who were just too lazy to come to class???
    I understand that I should share my notes with them so that if one day I’m too lazy to come to class, they will have my back. Problem is, I’m never absent! Therefore I have no incentive to share notes with my classmate. I hate when people befriend me, so that they could use me later on.

  13. I have finally a solution to this – I keep a file of un-reviewed notes in my PC, with all the typos and abbreviations, without the contents that they need to be integrated with… Just the notes as they come out of the lecture.
    No more no less than what everyone heard and could type.
    If someone lazy comes and I know that they don’t deserve all the extra time and effort I put in reviewing and completing my notes – especially when they were in class or they ask because they “have another exam to prepare”, as if I am there doing nothing – I just give that raw material.
    This is fair enough to let them get an A+ if they work enough on the notes, but it is not quick and easy as they hope.

  14. Yeah, your blog helped. I am a very smart student and take very effective notes so I feel a little irked when people ask for notes. But I find it difficult to say no so I give half heartedly . But I kind of feel I should take it in a positive spirit and also hope people start working hard by themselves instead of relying on other people’s hard work.

  15. you are an amazing person I wish I could still be like you but after being so taken advantage of I have become more hesitant and reluctant to give others my notes lest they take me for an easy target.

  16. Not denying anything laid out in article (cause it’s sensible) just raising awareness. There are situations when this act of charity can cause quite a lot of trouble for you, even if the intent was very noble. Consider the scenario where the answers in an exam require you to be descriptive and you did describe quite a lot of terminology and derivatives in your notes. You write the answers in a format or manner similar to your notes which should certainly be the conscious and subconscious take on matter as whatever you wrote in notes is how your mind understood it. Having done your best and nothing wrong on your end, you can still end up being punished (plagiarism) for it because you did share your notes. People that read from other people’s note have about half chance that they’d write the answers almost as is if a matching question comes up. So in courses that require you to be descriptive about your answer with little methodical application/changes, sharing your notes can be harmful. Just be mindful of such scenarios.

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