Thursday, December 1, 2011

Catharasis of a research scholar part 5- A note from a humble T.A

Invigilating exams is part of a T.A’s life. Its an exhilarating as well as an excruciating experience. Five years of overdose of invigilations has forced me to write this up on the catharasis section in this blog. It is my attempt to explain what invigilations have taught me in general. It also my subjective take on the topic and it is in no way a representation of the experiences of the entire T.A community.

What has invigilations taught me in these five years?

It has taught me I am the oppressor who gets up late than the students writing the exam and yet I end up getting a vada and coffee for doing nothing but walking up aisles and handing over papers.

It has taught me that I transform into a werewolf the moment I step into a classroom because if I don’t, I can be sacked for being lenient and cool.

It has taught me that even if students fart or hiccup it sounds like ‘ma’am’ and off I rush to answer their query.

It has taught me that management should install clocks or give students wrist watches instead of laptops else you are bound to run up and down the aisle every time someone asks ‘what’s the time’? (60 students asking the time every one minute makes me walk up and down for an hour announcing the time)

It has also taught me that invigilation is one exercise fit for bossy people who feel happy enough screaming ‘ I can confiscate your phone’, ‘ I can cancel your paper’, ‘ No talking you blue t shirt’ , ‘ Who the hell do you think you are fooling’.

It has taught me after 4 years students forget their names and end up being roll numbers and they tend to sign their names with roll numbers.

It has taught me that boys have a weak bladder than girls and even weaker bladder than older men. Because I dont remember going to the washroom in any exam duty in the past 5 years. Neither have I seen a male T.A or a prof do the same. But our male students like the primary school kids constantly asks for a break, unlike their female counterparts. I wonder if the male washrooms are inspiring comfy zones luring students out of exam halls. I hope to check that place out before I leave the institute.

Invigilations has taught me that even a final year student gets the shock of his life hearing ‘NEGATIVE MARKING’ and ‘ TIME UP’ ( which reminds me how effectively the system has perpetuated fear)
It has taught me that a room freshner is the invigilators best friend. After all its better than chloroform as you need to stay awake for 3 hrs. in a class where people like conserving water and seldom bathe.

It has taught me how not to dress lest you would want walking up the aisle to answer stupid questions like ‘ what is the course code’ , ‘ can I sharpen my pencil’ ‘ could your borrow me an eraser’, ‘can I drink water’. I discovered very late into y life here that male T.A’s seldom received such queries.

My experiences have also taught me that students dont 'copy' they 'help' each other and these are two distinct terms in their dictionary though for the T.A's both constitute 'malpractices'. Hence my favouite line these days is ' Exam is not a social service'. I still see the puzzled looks on their face when they earnestly try explaining ' ma'am I was not copying, I was just helping my friend'.

Invigilating exams have taught me to deal with crisis, mistakes in papers, malpractices and man handling, threats and tears . sleepy heads and clowns. It has taught me patience, tenacity rather arrogance and impatience. It has amused me as to how students evolve and so do us T.A’s from students to scholars to invigilators to gladiators.

And yet people ask me what's so much to observe while invigilating......... is it not a mindless activity?

Well I disagree... there is a lot more to it.

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