Every year it's the same thing. I walk into the examination
hall, usually a
, and I'm hit by my a wave of stress pheromone
s emitted by
hundreds of freaked out examinees. The group terror
Most disturbing of all
, I set the paper so I am responsible for the
fact that these people are all suffering.
Here are some of the incidents that have affected my thinking on exams.
A girl who felt faint
I had to help her out of the exam hall.
This happens quite often so I know what to do (you have to get the
blood flowing to the brain usually by lowering the person's head).
After the faintness subsided, she starting crying, really intensely.
She sobbed on my shoulder for about twenty minutes. She told me
that her best friend had killed herself the day before. Eventually
she calmed down, perhaps there were no more tears left, and she
managed to go back into the gym to complete her paper.
The guy who was not gay
He spent two hours writing I AM NOT GAY in his answer book.
Of course at the time no-one realized. He looked like he was industriously
working through the questions but when I looked at the paper later,
I wondered what his story was.
Collecting scripts from the clinic
Every year there are some people who get so stressed out by the exams that
they have to be hospitalised. This varies from an acute psychiatric
episode to suicidal thoughts, or just people anxious enough to need medical
supervision while they take their tests.
When I go up to the university clinic to get the solutions of these students
I can't help thinking that, however indirectly, I bear some responsibility
for their predicament.
When I was a student I enjoyed the single-combat of exams, the challenge,
but having seen things from the other side of the desk, I increasingly
feel that they constitute a cruel and unusual punishment.