I entered the room with the rows and rows and rows of desks all in neat lines and columns and my heart leapt into my mouth. The shivering, shaking, heart pounding nerves (much worse than I’d even got when I was at school) broke over me like waves, with cool water seeming to pour down my back and neck.
The pupils filed in, noisy in the quad and then seeming to hit a barrier of silence (the Deputy Head’s gaze) as they stepped into the room. They all sat down in their various places, two hundred pupils, identically dressed, eyes up at the front staring into space. I had to ring the parents of the pupils who hadn’t turned up, Sweetness and Light came in three quarters of an hour late (to a one hour paper) after the mother said said pupil had set off hours ago. It was the uniformity that freaked me out I think, all those eyes, all those hairstyles (long hair up in a bun with a flower bobble tieing it in place, short hair waved in the case of girls, lads;curtains or not-quite-skinheads) brown, blonde and red just staring at the clock until the papers are given out. Then bent over in most cases, some just continuing to stare at the clock.
I’d been given the teacher notes before the exam so I had a quick read, all about what sort of questions to answer and what words I wasn’t allowed to use; basically no explaining what a question meant or explaining what to do but I could read the question aloud to them.
The abject panic of being asked by a pupil to do just that, the utter fear when a boy asked me if he should rub out a particular line; he should’ve done but that was the answer to the question so I told him to do what he thought he needed to. Was that too much of a hint? He obviously thought he should rub out the line…did I effectively tell him the answer? Oh dear please just ask me for tracing paper and mirror card, I can cope with that!
And the pacing up and down through the rows, I feel like I’m swamped in the uniforms, blue shirts and black blazers surround me. We have to do that according to the teacher notes. Make sure that our gaze sweeps over the helpless minnows of pupils, I feel like a shark. I always hated it when teachers walked around during exams, they’d stop behind me, or cause a breeze as they shot past. I’d scowl at their retreating forms screaming (in my head) ‘Argh! I have to work that out again you stupid bitch, why’d you distract me?’. Up and down I walked, slowly so as not to cause a breeze, trying only to stop at the front or back or sides. Nevertheless I saw the ‘bitch’ scowls. A shark without teeth, guilty about upsetting the minnows in their silent, swearing, shoal.
It was a little like when I had a saturday job as a lifeguard (nice work if you can get it