Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hai Ku Silver Linin'

The 16+ and 18+ external exams have begun, which means invigilation duty for a few weeks in addition to regular classes, i.e. regular 40-minute shifts patrolling anything from 3 to 157 teenagers seated in seven silent rows. This is not their natural condition. Surreal.

You know how adorable children are when they're asleep? (Ah! Those 'I-love-you-Mommy'.-'I-love-you-cute-little-blonde-haired-kid.' movies...) Their peaceful faces, their stillness - and the fact that they're staying still long enough for you to stop thinking about their homework/acne/anxieties/field trip/diet etc. and just contemplate how miraculous they are. Of course it's different when you're a teacher and they're asleep in the back row of your classroom.....

But I find something similar at work when I invigilate these exams. These kids that you've known for five, maybe seven, years - maybe only one - are suddenly working on this major project to convince anonymous examiners that they're good enough for whatever it is they want to do next. There they all are: the high, low and average achievers, the clowns, the bullies, the athletes, the singers, the little old men and the puppies: every last one of them head down, shoulders hunched, and not a peep for two hours - nothing except the odd sigh, the flexing of fingers, the roll of a wrist or neck.

You remember, don't you? Writing, writing, writing, while outside the sun shines down on another perfect day. Everything you know or wish you remembered. Quick looks at the clock, in case your watch is wrong. Sun on the back of your neck despite the blinds. A distant awareness of the school bell and the brief surge of noise as classes change. The concentrated silence; and wild, hastily controlled mass hilarity at the unsuccessfully suppressed fart that shatters it. The quick naughty eye contact with neighbours. The irrepressible grin as you turn your thoughts back to the task in hand. And writing, writing, writing.

In the long silences, as you (that's I, back in the present, and invigilation mode) scan for unusual movements, odd posture, or overly-alert stillness, part of the mind wanders, noticing a new hair colour, or broadness of shoulders, comparing the tall, bent figure a couple of rows away with a clear memory of the shorter, squarer, infinitely noisier version that first appeared in your classroom five years ago; seeing young men and women where last week there were 'students'. You gotta love 'em.

So here are some exam haikus, kus hai like haikus. Ha!

Leafy branches dance.
The red second hand marks time.
Shadow dappled clock.

Candidate number.
Do not turn around or speak.
Answer all questions.

Do exams matter?
Ninety people in a room.
A single heartbeat.

Pen scratches. Ink flows.
Time moves ever more quickly.
Outside, sparrows flirt.

Inspiration soars.
The Grade 7s have football.
And the crowd goes wild!


nzm said...

I like the first one!

Hai hate to break it to you - but #3 has 2 many syllables in the first line!

MamaDuck said...

Bugger! Bugger! Bug!

MamaDuck said...

OK. Fixed it. Ta very much!

I'm glad you like the first one, because that was about this morning. There was only one candidate, and I'd taken the clock down from the wall behind him and put it where he could see it. After a while I realised that I could see the tree outside the window (full of very young courting sparrows - at the high school hop?!) reflected in the clock glass. The shapes were indistinct of course, but the movement was lovely. And that red second hand going TICK. TICK. TICK.

Where are you now? San Francisco? I lose track of time.

nzm said...

That's better!

No - we're still in Germany until the 16th. Next is NY for 8 days, then SF for 7, then I go onto NZ.