I don’t think I ever once got caught passing notes in school.
I did it all the time, mind you. If you know me at all, you’ll be aware that I greatly prefer written communication over spoken conversation – and also that I am a huge fan of the lengthy letter/email. Of course, I know that not everyone is content to spend their days and nights writing and typing, so I appreciate emails and messages of any length, but I find it almost impossible to condense my responses. It’s strange. I can sit through entire conversations and not be motivated to say more than “yes” or “uh-huh”, and yet when it’s written down I suddenly think of a million things I absolutely must say. I never use ten words where a hundred will do. (I hate instant messaging, or ‘chat’, or whatever it’s called these days, for precisely that reason. I’m incapable of responding in short sentences that only take a few seconds to type!)
In fact, I have real difficulty in understanding how exactly people manage to communicate with so few words, these days. Text messages that just say ‘k’ or ‘late’ – when I’d need to say ‘am running late due to mad traffic & taking ages to get taxi, but should be there in 10 mins, will call you when there, save me a seat please’. That’s me being brief by using ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, and abbreviating ‘minutes’. Cutting down any further would cause me actual anxiety and stress. I like to give reasons and explanations, to ask for clarity, and to ensure that both parties know what’s going on. ‘k’ and ‘late’ just don’t do it for me.
Likewise, my notes to friends at school were long, rambling paragraphs in small writing (to save paper – I’m aware that my verbosity isn’t environmentally friendly!). Often, when bored in class, my friends and I would have whole conversations by means of a piece of paper that sat atop a pile of legitimate notes between our desks, pausing at all the right times to look thoughtfully at the page as if it contained startling revelations about Henrik Ibsen or Mary, Queen of Scots. If our positions meant that the note had to be passed, it was never me who got caught. I had a rather angelic expression, and can also be more sleekit than you’d think to look at me. The suspicious teacher’s gaze always passed right over me and came to rest upon one of my friends. Poor Becs got it more than most, as she always managed to look guilty and nervous – particularly when she was trying to look relaxed and innocent. It was a great source of amusement for us. Well, for me, anyway.
I never really thought about the poor teacher, working hard, doing his or her job, and being ignored by thankless children who would rather not be there. I can see why they got annoyed, now that I’m one of Them. It’s a bit disheartening to be putting everything you’ve got into making a lesson exciting and interesting, only to find the little sods giggling over a note that’s doing the rounds. And of course, the worst part about that when you’re an ESL teacher is that you can understand very little of what the notes say:
I don’t get angry over the note-passing. At least it’s not as big a distraction to others as some other kinds of misbehaviour. And they’re just children – what child, realistically, wants to go to school every day and have to sit still for hours on end and listen to adults talking? Particularly if they’re prattling on in a weird foreign language. So I just confiscate the notes without pausing my lesson. Sometimes I see a flicker of fear in the eyes of the note writer, so I give it a glance and then put a very stern, shocked and angry expression on my face to let them know that I know exactly what they’re saying, and they won’t get away with it.
I haven’t the foggiest, of course, but it usually puts them on their best behaviour for the rest of the lesson. ;)