Game faces on. Dressed loosely, jammies pants for once allowed to be worn with no remark or rebuke. Sitting in front of rows of- for once- self controlled teenagers. The girl in front of me with the red plaid jammies pants and the incredibly clashing bright red striped soccer jersey keeps giving hate stares to the girl next to her. Cheating? Hardly. Spillover from an injury done at last weekend’s party? Mad because the other girl took the varsity softball 2nd base position? Perhaps.
The boys who are always indifferent or outright rude have found their manners today. I am a Sub, Proctoring Mid-Term Exams in 10th Grade English. Downcast eyes, deep soulful sighs. A minute is a minute but 21 of them have passed by this group so far; they have 1 hours and 49 more to go and seem close to implosion already. A boy I've known since he was perhaps 7 faltered when I made a joke at the start of the exam time. It is an unnatural even to them. They are used to hyper-stimulii, sounds, movement. It seems that the girls are more focused because they have a pony tail to twist around, a hoop earring to finger idly as they concentrate. Their restlessness is taken care of and their minds are able to lock into the task at hand. There is much yawning going on- it DOES seem unreasonable to ask anyone to take a Mid-Term Exam at 7:20 a.m. In walks the Relief Proctor. WHO thinks of such things?? What a humane concept. I could go pee, or hang out with the other Proctors for a breath. Then again, shouldn't I be able to sit there for 2 hours? I think so. I decline the offer to be scheduled in for a break. It's like some inner perverse endurance drill. You can sit and take a test? I can sit and Proctor. This is a new side-career. Professional Substitute Proctor. How does such a thing look on the resume' ??
Their eyes are glazed over. Time is the enemy. Why should they do Vocab? It seems irrelevant. ( forgetting the fact that " irrelevant" is a 10th grade Vocab word, most likely ! ). Their English teacher just came in, smiling and positive. " You can do this, this is NOT hard !!! " She breezes through, answering questions, breezes out. That look to me as she passes the doorjamb just now.... " They'd better do well or I will catch hell for it ". Hmm.. A few boys with baseball caps on their heads. After Columbine all hats were banned. They've slowly crept back into fashion as Administrators realized that wearing a baseball cap with "OId Navy" on it did not equate membership in an underground student terrorist organization. On the sliding scale of conformist dress and behavior, I'd rank it far less worrisome than wearing an ankle-length black leather duster to school in late May..... The desks takeee a real beating in here. One fellow is taking out his frustrations by doodling an elaborate Parisian street scene, replete with young children licking half-melted ice cream cones, stern-faced matrons in whale-bone corsets, playful garçons with a foot-ball and the obligatory aging whore strolling along the edge of the parc with her toy poodle on its opalescent leash. No.....no, wait. My bad. It's a doodle of concentric diamond shapes. Nothing more. :) One hour into the Exam, and 1st drafts are being scratched through and edited before they are painstakingly transcribed into the much-vaunted Blue Books. A young lady lifts her 1st draft up and I realize- with dismay- that if she and I exchanged papers right now, I would be able to read her essay. She would need to run this hand-written narrative by a child psychologist for a quick analysis. There is no real-life analogy. Intense mental focus can be maintained only for so long. You're doing brain surgery to remove an aneurysm the size of a walnut? You have colleagues in there with you. You're flying a 24 hour round trip Air Force mission? You have training, amphetamines and crew with you. Where is the life analogy to sitting for 2 hours in absolute silence and making something out of nothing? Writing an essay. I love writing, but I do not envy these kids. If they love to write, it will be cake. If they do not, it is slow torture. The grind for them is merciless. Welcome to the real world......