This summer I’ve been invigilating exams in a local secondary school.  It wasn’t a career move but more “helping out” as schools lost many of their regular invigilators after Covid.  I responded to an appeal in summer 2022.

It’s not well paid but what I didn’t get in money, I gained in a surprisingly rich and valuable experience.

Firstly my monkey mind learnt to be still for two hours, without a phone, a pen and pencil, falling asleep or any other distraction!  I had to be alert, calm, centred and totally present and I’m still feeling the benefit of that now.

With phone was completely switched off and away, it broke my scrolling habit.  I let go the default where we constantly look at devices to check the time, to see notifications, to hear addictive beeps.

Now my mind races much less, my phone is turned off more.  I don’t check my email continually.  I’ve detached from the addiction to technology which for me is priceless.

I learnt to be very quiet, inside and out!

Sometimes, when the invigilating team were at our best, the exam hall room felt as Zen as a Buddhist temple!

An invigilator’s role, in my opinion, is to create and hold a safe space where  young people can have the best shot at passing their exams after eleven or thirteen years in education.

When students sit nine GCSE’s, that can be twenty five individual exams over a short time. Even with a young mind, that’s really challenging for many.

This is close to my heart as I failed my A’ levels and feel it set me back for a long time.

Do we just walk up and down and make sure no-one’s cheating?

We had to check everyone had the right student has the right papers, tools, a calm room that’s not too hot or cold, a desk that doesn’t wobble – there are even wobble wedges to stop that annoying movement. To make sure the students have the optimum experience so their best chance at success on the day.

When we best did our job, we were almost invisible but all seeing and instantly available to fetch a tissue, facilitate a fast toilet break, a pen or calculator.

I can still remember my exams at Greensward school in 1979.  I particularly remember the pacing of a teacher so we don’t do that much now!   The worst part was definitely all the standing still as sitting isn’t encouraged.

What do invigilators do to occupy the time?

One friend adds up all the numbers in the room, others count the bricks in a wall.

For me, it was precious time to do my silent breathing exercises that I often don’t find time for.  I learnt to really slow my breath and then my mind too, to breathe rhythmically as a matter of course.   It’s a powerful habit to have mastered!  Some also did our pelvic floor exercises!

I have so much respect for this new generation

I work primarily with adult business women as a business and money coach and run business networking groups.

Also, I don’t have children so it was fascinating to really see this generation.  Some look years older than their years and have such presence.  It was truly inspiring and I felt really proud to see how multi-cultural our schools are now.  We truly are a blended country and for these young people that is their norm.

There are so many thousands who are the next generation, getting ready to ultimately run this crazy world.  They have a big job to do and they have so much to bring.  I hope the world is ready for them!

If you want something really worthwhile to do, consider a little invigilating in your local school. It might just change your life!  The people are fun too!

Rosemary Cunningham helps women create the business that embodies their passion and purpose.   She is a business and money coach, based in Leigh-on-sea in Essex.  Rosemary also runs Winning Women Business Networking.

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