By some twist of fate or my premature miscalculations that no official letters for any official work would make its way to our unit pigeon hole and destroy my year-long plan for a family get-together trip, a senior teacher of the English unit handed me a week-old letter bearing the MARA logo. It would seem pretty reasonable to head outside the staffroom, set a bonfire, which the wood was the Cameron Highland family package pamphlet I received 3 weeks ago and later had planned a strawberry hand-picking experience with my family and relatives, and dance the fire dance before I regained my consciousness.
In it was written, I was appointed one of the invigilators for SPM 2009. Then, my mind settled down and I quickly called a few important people in my life and cancelled the plan. I surfed www.ihatemyboss.com to post something there. Tuesday the week after, I went to the briefing, a day before the first SPM paper.
Quoting Miss Mallika Vasughi’s article “Ridden by guilt and work “in The Star Sunday April 26th 2009. “You get a little upset at first, but then you remind yourself that there had been similar situations in the past too.”
Invigilating was a very technical and a well planned routine. The examination’s title, the school and the subject’s codes, the duration and other information must be written on the blackboard before the candidates came into the exam room. Then, the answer papers would be arranged neatly on each desk. 10 minutes before the exam started, the candidates filled in their particulars and they were informed on the regulations.
The moment the examination started, we would go from desk to desk, one by one to look at their identification card and their exam slip. The only assistance we would do for them were handing extra answer sheets giving permission for them to spend a penny, and clarifying on things such as meaning of words to the candidates were not allowed. Hence, invigilating Physics or Tamil Literature examinations for example was done without any hassle, and it was different, as what we did back in our schools for final year exams. If you are asked on these matters, the only probable answer would be “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you”.
Invigilating was a physical thing too. Walking between the rows of desks, pretending to look at the candidates or something else, like the wall. It made little difference to them. Our attires must be taken into consideration, as we will be in front of them all the time. Making sure any coins or key bunch in any pockets didn’t clink was something new I learn of. We had to be seen all the time. As long as they realized there were people around to assist them or guard them against any copying, it was a good job.
At times I would practice standing upright for 5 minutes without doing anything. You stand and don’t do anything and you will be surprised that it was difficult at first. Standing still and not doing anything is a skill that nobody would want to imagine doing. In our hectic life, it was not surprising our minutes will be filled with everything urgent and important doing. Standing and not doing anything is a mere impossibility.
On the first and second day, Wednesday, I was instructed to invigilate Room 2, placing 25 candidates. Though they were locals, none of them I recognized. The first SPM 2009 paper was Bahasa Melayu 1 on Wednesday at 8.00 am and it was my first to invigilate as well. They made noises before and when they are seated, and we invigilators would remind them to be calm.
I invigilated them for 4 sessions. By Wednesday, which was the second day, I was able to memorise all 25 names. Communication happened when I mentioned a few of the candidates’s names and they were happy to see I took the trouble to call them by their names. At first I thought the candidates minds were as impenetrable as the school’s strong room, but I was glad I was wrong.
On my fourth day of invigilating, we had a candidate coming in panting, and she was 15 minutes late, but our head, Mr Hassan, still took her in. Another case was a candidate who came 20 minutes late that made others shook heads in discontent. The candidate’s hair was dyed brown and his right hand was tattooed. That was my first encounter with a student looking like that. Before he stepped in, I told him to tuck in his uniform and smarten up a little. We still let him in and for the whole 4 sessions in the first 2 days, that candidate slept. Later, I found he was the school’s dropout. That is amazing, considering they will be using the SPM to further his studies or get a job.
After the session ended, my colleagues advised me not to comment on the candidates’ bad attitude such as their hairstyles and shoes. They are other school’s students, and reminding them too many a times will make your car’s paint job at risk, or you might go home with a flat tyre.
On Thursday, I invigilated Room 1. Two students did not show up. One just did not want to take the paper. There was an ugly truth that some schools just did not want a candidate to show up and take the paper, hoping the school’s grade would not go down, or a school that registered a poor student as an ‘independent candidate’. I mean, that was a scary thing to experience, when you just don’t know the upper hands would be doing anything just to save the school graph from going down.
A candidate passed away in an accident before the SPM started. My colleague wrote a big ‘Tidak hadir’ on a piece of paper and put it on the absentee’s desk. It was a feeling I had that I could not describe, when I passed by the empty desk thinking the person wouldn’t be showing up at all and the deceased friends’ feelings in the same room. It was like in Facebook , where nobody would end a deceased person’s account and the deceased’s face would be on your page every time knowing your late friend was not there at the end of the line.
On my fifth day, that was Friday, I was one of the 4 invigilators for English for Science and Technology paper 1 and 2. EST was done at the Hall. Everybody responsible was there, the head of invigilators, his vice and 2 invigilators. That day marked the least number of candidates for any SPM paper. There was one girl candidate.
The following week, I invigilated in the school’s main Hall. In the hall, our lanes were recorded, whether lane 1 until 7, so as when there is a discrepancy, they would detect who guarded the specific lane. The person would be responsible for the process. It was a new experience for me to invigilate in the biggest venue. It was at that time where I got to see ids came in many conditions. When I checked their identification cards, there were identification cards with lost chips, a blurred picture, a cut and restored identification card and a slip replacing a lost one.
On the last day, 16th December, we invigilated 2 papers in the evening. There were Sains Pertanian and Ekonomi Rumah Tangga. The candidates taking Sains Pertanian, all boys, 3 already had their hairs dyed and spiked, 2 did not bother to tuck their shirts in.
After this SPM ended, we still held the responsibility until the result came out. Before it came out, the head of the prefect would be as edgy as a candidate. This is because we prayed nobody would come up with a complaint. Other than that, I would have to cope with the fact that I would not be able to see the students again-at least in their school uniforms.
I hope the candidates that I began to like would succeed in their SPM and forgetting them wasn’t easy especially for the 25 students that I had remembered. The nasty assumption regarding invigilating was replaced with sweet memories. Bumping on the boys and girls and being greeted by them would be a nice experience.
Sunday April 26, 2009
Ridden by guilt and work
I told them to answer the nature calls before the paper starts. If they were already inside the room, I suggest them to ignore the calls, especially for one hour paper, as I didn’t want them to waste time. They had to be silent as son as they stepped into my exam hall. I asked them to place their exam slip and identification card on the right corner of the desk. Secondly, they were to check the paper, whether they have received the correct paper for the exam. Then, they wait for the announcement to start answering after they filled in their particulars on the answer booklet provided. In the first day, while giving out the instructions, I sounded like I was talking to my students, but the realization that I was in a foreign school snapped me back to reality.
At times I detected body gestures made by a few boys, and after that, I reminded them not to do excessive body language otherwise the invis assumed it was meant to be a sign language to pass messages. Usually I would expect to see some awkward scratching of the head many times and looking at the back, which looked out of place.
Occasionally papers were blown away, pencils and pens fell, one students’ things dropped on the floor and we invis would ruch to the scene and pick the things up and put them on the owner’s desks. Sometimes they were courteous enough to say thank you teacher. Having to see what I was expected to do, usually I pretended not to see the unidentified dropping objects. One day it rained and we showed a little courtesy by taking the the students’ bags outside the hall and bring them in. The weather was always raining in the evenings and I hoped they would not get affected by the sudden change in the weather.
In the meantime, I learnt a skill in writing, to write while I stand. As we invis were not allowed to sit the whole time, other than standing still, I jot down things. I have created a scrapbook for the 2009 SPM. I pasted the thread for tieing the papers, a portion of the answer paper, the lembaga peperiksaan KPM emblem, when I went up to the principal’s office, I requested the guru pakar to put a chop in my scrapbook. While I was standing up, I jot down ideas and many things, such as this article that you are reading right now.
The invis would not be arranged to invi at their own school, so as to avoid any assistance to the students. My school was Tun Ghafar Baba MARA Junior Science College, and I was sent to invigilate at a government school in Jasin, Melaka. It was one km from my house.
By MALLIKA VASUGI
That’s part and parcel of life, you sigh and even as you are half-way wishing that some of those duties could be rescheduled, the school clerk hands you another letter calling you for invigilation duties. You get a little upset at first, but then you remind yourself that there had been similar situations in the past too. You then assure yourself that once invigilation duties and competitions are over, you can get right back to continuing with the syllabus and scheme of work to get your students ready for the mid-year examination which incidentally, you are also in charge of formulating questions for.
And right in the middle of a long overdue lesson with your Form 3 students whose classes had been coinciding with all those out-of-school duties, you get another call from the authorities saying they there was a mistake and instead of invigilating, they want you to be the chief-invigilator, and that they would like you to come right away to be.
It was not in my area of task to counsel any student. I just did not want to pry poke a nose into a candidate’s offense and try to correct the dropout. Perhaps some day he would thank his teachers for telling him and for guiding him to the path that he chose not to tread. Deep down I knew that candidate just got something good inside, when he greeted me “Sudah makan, cikgu” on the first day of me invigilating Room 2. Ff he was a bully or something, let’s hear his side of story first, before me judging him of what he looked like. Hilary Swank did a good portrayal of a Erin Gruwell , a teacher who knew her students well from writings in ‘Freedom Writers’
Sunday May 17, 2009
Behind every great man...
Teachers nurture the leaders of tomorrow. But the leaders of today can attest to the fact that teachers have made them who they are.
I really respected her for the trust she had in me because there was no one to invigilate me, and this incident also taught me that honesty really is the best policy.”
While I was invigilating, I jotted down famous quotes and sayings I found pasted in the hall. One of them was ‘Vision without action is daydream, action without vision is nightmare