I’ve known for some time now that I’m a relentless fountain of unparalleled genius. However, it is interesting to see that knowledge validated by 24 people paying thousands of dollars to sit in a room that I happen to be speaking in. Teaching is doing a lot for my ego, but something happened today that hasn’t happened before: my kids took notes while I was talking.
At first glance, that doesn’t sound like a particularly extraordinary statement for someone in my position to make. It might even seem natural for a student to write down important ideas from class, and that sort of thing has actually happened a lot in my class. The difference this time is that there was nothing on the board, nothing on a powerpoint, nothing going on in the room except me talking, and students wrote it down. When I noticed some of them writing as I was talking, I had to stop and say “are you writing this down?” and I think the rest of the class took that as a warning that they’d need to document my every word because then the rest of the class started writing too.
I’ve encountered a lot of unexpected situations in teaching that have left me with the overwhelming sense that I’m somehow both the bee’s knees and a wet bag of shredded garbage, but nothing has given the sense of authority and validity as a bunch of kids rapidly scribbling my every word. Maybe it’s a testament to my many faults that, the second I realized what they were doing, I wanted to give them terrible advice because I knew they’d write it down as if their future loan payments depended on it.
It’s hard to go about my normal day as if a bunch of people hadn’t just scribed my words as if they were coming down from divinity. How can I buy groceries with all this self-importance weighing me down? How can I speak to the cashier when I know they won’t write my words down, which is what I now know I deserve? The only way I’ll be able to get food is at restaurants because I know the servers take notes, and that’s the treatment I’ve become used to. I’ll have to give my friends notepads and pens whenever we have conversations. How else can I be sure they won’t miss any important details? What if they need to cite me in the future? I’ve been burdened with the responsibility of having words that must be recorded for posterity.
Other than the overwhelming sense of grandeur I’ve been afflicted with, seeing people take notes while I was just talking was, more than anything, weird. I’ve been a student for most of my life so I’ve been the one taking the notes, trying to decipher what was worth remembering and what was just another contribution to the overabundance of cognitive dross that made up a whole lot of school before–and often during–college. But now people are writing down what I say, and that means they either think they have to do it, they think they’ll get into trouble if they don’t, or they think it’s actually worth the trouble, and it’s a strange feeling. I have no intention of ever revealing anything I wrote online to my students, but if by chance any of them ever stumbled upon it on accident, and if through an even further aberration of the universal laws of probability, one of them read this, then I’d tell them that it made me feel cool and not to be surprised that if I see them doing it again I’ll give them a really weird look because my surprised face looks like someone has teleported many old jelly beans into my mouth and asked me to do complex math, much eyebrow furrowing, and weird mouth shapes.