Those three hours

Ashwini Pathak

Hindi is the longest exam in secondary school. Students of 8th, 9th, and 10th are present in my class. The invigilation of such a harmless paper is a bit boring. Harmless because most students know the subject well and don’t usually cheat. Once all the rules to be followed in the exam hall are explained, the invigilator has not much to do, except to give supplements and watch the students.

The latter is an interesting task. You get to see a variety of students, each one unique. Unique gestures, body language, appearance, writing, reading, and recollecting in different ways. It amuses me, amazes me, pleases me, disheartens me, makes me nostalgic, and live my childhood again. Of course, when we observe them, we should take care that we don’t creep the children out or bother them, but observing them is really fun.

As the reading time starts, some children are so eager that they become impatient till the time you give them the question paper. Some are calm and quiet, some are trying to recollect that important answer that they always seem to forget. Some finish reading so fast that they want to start writing immediately. Some look here and there, one looks at me and smiles, one is happy that she is able to answer everything, another is happy that the question she did not learn has not been asked.

Now the writing time starts. Some pounce on the answer sheet and start writing, some are calm and start slowly and systematically. Some students want to show off…how I write, how I take so many supplements, how I draw… they want the teacher and everybody else to notice them. Some are pretending, they don’t know the answer but show as if they are writing and thinking, as you look at them, they pretend more…it’s funny and cute.

Photo courtesy: Ashwini Pathak

Now the middle duration of the paper, some are writing very fast and looking at the clock again and again, some are cool, some want a supplement, some write as if they are meditating…with all mind and heart in writing, so engrossed. They are not aware of the world around them… it’s a blissful sight to see such students…you envy them, you love them, and you want to be them at that moment. What a wonderful example of mindfulness. Some don’t care much, whatever they know they will write, finish, and sit. They don’t care what will happen, what you or anyone else will say…cool and chilled out. Maybe they have figured out what exactly they want from life.

Some are lost, totally lost…confused, unprepared, anxious…have put in less effort but still want to perform well…most are in this category…want more by doing less. The way that they ask for supplements is also unique. One asks so suddenly and loudly as if it’s an emergency…supplement!!! Another with all respect and courtesy…excuse me, ma’am, supplement please, and then a sweet thank you, some who don’t seem to have the time to do all this just raise their hand, then you ask and they say yes.

Here comes the doubt session, different types of doubts are asked. Actually, all instructions are loud and clear on paper but they want assurances from the teacher. Questions to be written or not, only answers? What’s the meaning of this? Can we opt for more than one question. Over-achievers generally ask … is this question correct? Their confidence is really appreciable. How many points are to be written? The answers to all these questions have to be written as discussed in class or can they be written in one’s own words? Once they know this is the answer, magically all their queries are resolved, they understand everything and they will not bug you.

Here comes the climax, the last 10 minutes, a few have completed the paper a long time ago, they have checked and rechecked. They are now yawning, looking here and there, a few have closed their eyes. A few are still writing, but they know, they will complete it easily. There are one or two who have to complete one big question, so they are worried, anxious… about to cry. The other one in the same situation, however, is calm and writing courageously.

Now it is time to submit. Few give away their answer sheets eagerly, few give easily, from a few…, I don’t like it, but have to snatch. When we collect the last paper they are allowed to talk and discuss. The relief of completing one exam is so much that, at the top of their voices, they chit-chat and discuss the paper, some are happy, some are sad, and some don’t care…they meet their friends and go home.

Attitude…perspective… your theory of life…is decided and reflected during the exam…it gets reinforced exam after exam and becomes your way of life…. Exams are not for teachers to judge you or grade you. Exams are to check how much you know and how much more you need to study, how much you have grasped, and how much effort you need to put into the subject. Do you like the subject and how much do you like it? If you do not like it then in which subject can you really do well? Which is the subject you don’t tire of learning, you feel happy and forget yourself? There are some exams that will gauge you, judge you, and decide your career path…but there is no exam or examiner who can decide the way you live your life, that is totally up to you, whether you face it boldly or timidly, calmly or restlessly, enthusiastically or dully, it’s for you to decide. For this exam are we all prepared?

The author is Assistant Teacher in the secondary section at DSK school, Pune. She teaches chemistry. She is involved actively in science projects and activities of the school. She has worked as a guide for Children’s Science Congress project at the national level. She can be reached at

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