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