The Exam Hall
The Exam Hall7 mins 16.5K 7 mins 16.5K
It is October already and children all across the city are super busy, preparing for their semester examination and so are their parents. Students are found walking or travelling with their heads held down staring at their books and chanting the formulae, definitions or important pointers from their text books.
As for a teacher, examination time is comparatively the relaxed period of the year. Nonetheless, there are duties like exam folder bundling, invigilation, paper correction, marks entry and analysis - all of which demands immense vigilance. The vocal chords of a teacher get ample rest from the routine continuous hours of teaching and mentoring. Those two or three hours in the exam hall is the only time when the teachers eyes take up the charge and responsibility of alert scanning in all directions, whilst the vocal chords go on a resting mode which they so much long for.
It was the mathematics paper that day and as we teachers headed to our allotted exam rooms with the respective exam folders in our hands, we knew for sure that we would need to be on our toes, running here and there for three hours, catering to the ‘supplement sheets’ needs of the budding Einsteins and Archimedises seated in the exam hall, even as they pour out their hard work and toil (either from just the night before or months of preparations) on the papers in the form of formulae, equations and numbers.
I had my invigilation duty in one of the exam halls that day. After asking the students to say their prayers, having them keep their bags and belongings outside the room and making them settle down, I walked across the class faking to put on a ‘stern detective face’ (as that doesn’t come naturally) to find any bits of paper or suspicious scribblings anywhere around. I quickly took a glance at the faces of the students seated. Some hands were folded, eyes closed and they seemed to be pleading God for His mercies. Some faces were overly confident. They seemed to look at me saying, ‘Huh! Can’t wait to see the question paper. Bring it on! Bring it on!’ A few of them were so nervous and pleading to allow them to visit the washroom one last time before getting the question paper.
The exam bell rang and I swiftly distributed the question papers to all the students. Walking across the room, I once again delighted myself by capturing varied expressions that ran across the faces of those teens. The overly confident creamy layer kept the aura of their overconfidence as they flipped through the pages of the question paper; the nervous ones were found biting their nails and scratching their heads, trying hard to figure out how to crack the sums. Some faces were joyous, eyes shining victoriously as if to say, ‘Such a simple paper! I shall surely hit a centum’. On the contrary few eyes were teary, faces blank as their brains were trying to figure out which sums belonged to which chapter.
There was another group of students who were least bothered with whatsoever is happening in the world. They were there; seated in the exam hall just because there was no other option and according to our society, written exam is the one and only way to calibrate their potentialities! They seemed to have no affinity with the paper or the content that was printed within. Their faces showed aimless expressions – by aimless, I mean long term aims. They obviously had a short term aim of trying their level best to fool me and manage to acquire bits and pieces of information using their exceptionally refined and updated skills, so that they could manage to score atleast just the boundary line of passing. But little did they know that we are teachers after all. We wouldn’t let them outwit us that easily.
The second bell rang and I hurriedly distributed the answer sheets. The students hasted to fill in their details and took off immediately to solve the paper. After having signed in their answer sheets, I once again scanned my eyes across their faces. For the first one hour, all looked equally busy – the over-confident ones, the nervous ones and the lazy ones. Solving sum after sum speedily, their pens religiously translating their thoughts into words, rather numbers in the case of this paper.
After about half an hour, an anxious voice yelled at the top of his voice, ‘Ma’am, supplement!’
I looked at his direction and headed towards him, as all the 40 pairs of eyes in the exam hall followed me, as he triumphantly took the supplement sheet from me and grinned in pride being the first one to do so. The rest of them returned back to their answer sheets, as by now, they were determined to claim their supplement sheets too!
No sooner, there were different pitches, chords and intensities of voices all across the classroom shouting out, ‘Ma’am, supplement sheet!’ By the time I would finish signing on a sheet on the right extreme row, someone from the extreme left corner would demand for his or her supplement. With every passing ten minutes, the frequency of supplement sheets needs would go on increasing. It was as though they were saying, ‘Supplement sheet is my birthright and I shall have it!
Time passed by really soon. It was the last five minutes. I asked the students to tie up all their supplement sheets, check their roll numbers and question numbers properly. Finally, the bell rang and I started collecting the answer sheets roll number-wise. The students handed over their papers smiling victoriously having accomplished a great task. As I reached up to one of the ‘take-it-easy-attitude’ student who having wasted so much of time staring at the walls and ceiling all through, was suddenly enlightened to write an answer.
“Ma’am, please give me five minutes”, he begged.
“I cannot do that child, time is already up. I cannot be partial to you”, I justified.
“Please ma’am, please! Just one answer”, he insisted.
The teacher in me wanted to snatch away his paper as I had seen him wasting ample time doing nothing. I should not for sure give him a single minute more. But still I forced myself to collect the papers of the rest of them as arguing with him would create a lag in collecting others papers. After collecting others papers, I returned back to him. He must have got two minutes extra already by then.
“Ma’am, please. Give me two more minutes”, he said.
This time I was stern. I took his paper away repeating “Time up, time up!”
I did not turn back to look at his expressions. He would have been sad, annoyed, angry, regretful and guilty for his under-preparations. I didn’t make an attempt to look at his face. All that I knew was, he was given the same amount of time as others were – for preparing for exams and for answering in exam. I had to snatch his paper as ‘Time was up, Time was up!’
As I walked up the stairs towards the staff room with the answer sheets folder in my hands, my mind was going through a lot of thoughts. It was not the first time that I had an invigilation duty, but I don’t know why I found myself pondering over the last few minutes in the exam hall.
I was thinking - if it would be my last hour or minute of life and I would suddenly remember that there are certain things I missed doing in life, certain places I missed going, certain people I missed reaching out to, certain dreams I missed following, like that boy in the exam hall, could I say to the Almighty, “Lord, Give me one last chance please!”.
And if the Lord would say, “I had given you ample time, opportunities, health, wisdom, family, job, loving people around. You should have made the best use of it. As for now my child, time is up, time is up!”
The word of God says in Ephesians 5:16, “Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”.
Each day is worth living, each moment is precious and worth praising and thanking God for. Let’s make the most of this day, this moment, before God would say, “I had given you ample time, opportunities, health, wisdom, family, job, loving people around. You should have made the best use of it. As for now my child, time is up, time is up!”