Exams are tedious, especially when they are long. With my 15 classes, I’ve had about 19 hours of exams and controlled assessments in the past few school weeks – that’s a lot of time spent invigilating, as they call it over here.
We’ve all been in the situation of sitting or standing for a whole exam, singing songs in our heads, making up stories, worrying over all the work we could be doing, occasionally helping a student with a question. Blah, so boring.
Trying not to fall into a stupor over these past weeks has been difficult, so has the switch back to normal-classroom-teacher-mode, but I worked out a few ways to keep myself awake and even a bit productive.
Up that step count
If you’re like me and own a Fitbit or other fitness tracker, what better way to increase your daily step count than to do continuous laps of the room. Having a full hour exam means that you can technically go on an hour-long walk during the work day.
It has the added advantage of allowing you to keep a close eye on everyone, or a closer eye on those suspicious students, and already be on your feet to provide assistance to any students who need it.
Have a bit of fun and keep changing your route, your walking speed, the noise your shoes make, even try walking where it looks like you’re rolling or floating along. You can become extremely aware of how you walk when you have so much time to practice.
Depending on the circumstances of the exam, you might be able to get a bit of sneaky planning in. Of course none of us have ever done anything remotely like this, we all spend all of the exam watching the students like hawks…
Realistically, it is a good quiet time to get some work done. Make it a lesson or activity that you can pick up and put down as needed, you’ll still need to do a visual sweep of the room every few minutes and probably go help some students. Just be careful you don’t get so involved in your work that you become unaware of the rest of the room.
Why not take a book around with you while upping that step count and do some marking? You can easily get through a class in this way during an hour, again as long as you don’t lose awareness of the rest of the room.
This seems to work best with shifty groups of students if you circulate while marking as they are more aware of your presence and you can keep a more continuous eye on them, but if your room and students are in a better position you can remain at your desk.
If you have been itching for time to change the posters and student work around the room, now is a good chance. You’ll be moving around a lot, so be careful to not spend much time with your back to the room. A good way to get around this is to have the new displays on your desk, and remove pieces from the wall one at a time. Make the trip back to your desk to swap them over each time, and move through the desks rather than around the edge of the room if possible.
This one could be a bit dangerous if people question why you are answering emails during an exam. If you feel that your students are trustworthy and the room is arranged well, there is no real reason why you can’t spend a bit of (broken) time going through your inbox.
If you are supervising an exam in a large hall with other supervisors, play a bit of desk PAC-MAN! You might have to contain your enthusiasm though, everyone needs to be restricted to a serious-exam-supervision-walk even though you might be tempted to walk quite fast to catch the others.
Count the balls
This is one I played a few times at my previous school. Our big exams were held in the sports hall, and around the walls and ceiling many a ball was stuck. We made it our mission to find and count every ball we could, which required us to walk all around the hall and look at everything from all angles. You’d be surprised how many you can find – we found 27!
If you have conflicting numbers, don’t tell each other where they all are, you all need to find all of them on your own. You can even compare numbers between exams to see if any balls have been brought down or any new ones added.
What not to do
While there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself occupied, don’t do anything that you know will take all of your focus, even if you completely trust your students. You absolutely cannot lose awareness of the students and the room, not just for the risk of cheating but because if a student needs help you don’t want to keep them waiting.
Reading a book, for example, can be dangerous if you get too sucked in (like I do!). If it’s a book that doesn’t suck you in, why are you reading it in the first place?
Data entry is another dangerous one – more often than not you need to give it your complete and full attention to make sure there are no mistakes, so with the possibility of continuous interruptions it is probably best to leave this until after the exam is finished.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.