The exams are finally drawing to a close and it’s a relief. After years of hearing it from kids in the back seat, it’s now my turn to say: “Are we there yet?”
I can almost hear the echo: “Not long now, nearly there.”
Us parents are holding up the backline for our young scholars on the frontline. They may have their wits about them and their pencils sharpened, but we have their food cooked, their clothes washed and, in as much as we can, the noise dampened around the house as we help them along.
Listening and trying not to offer an opinion at times. How did the exam go? It’s just a question – but where it can lead is not always easy territory. It’s not the end of the world if they’re not happy with their answer. No doubt what they did write was probably better than they think. They’re only human. Just like we were. They too will experience that dawning realisation that what was answered wasn’t actually what was asked.
“Is there anything you need?” I asked just before the exams started. My lad wanted a particular blue pen from a local supermarket. Done. Then I noticed his worn white rubber – do they still call them that? He clearly needed a new one. Called into a shop near work and asked for a white rubber – quietly just in case anyone else heard this middle-aged woman looking for a condom in a stationery shop. The assistant didn’t bat an eyelid. So I bought four, just in case.
The exam weather is good. Good for washing clothes, in the daylight at any rate. The night before the first exam my student asked me to wash his favourite shorts which I duly did. Bunged them in the dryer – with nothing else.
My husband rolled his eyes and moaned at the waste of electricity as the shorts spun around in the drum for the next hour. But I had the shorts washed and ironed for the first exam. A moment of madness and mollycoddling – but the wearer was happy and so was then was I.
English kicked off the exam journey, followed by the other big hitter subjects of Irish and Maths. It’s good to get those out of the way. It was a relatively steady start with what seemed to be a nice first English paper. We found ourselves starting into a postmortem that evening and quickly decided not to do that again.
And then on towards the second English paper. After studying a clatter of poets only a few would turn up. But which to back? Most hedged their bets during the year and concentrated on a chosen few.
It's 2016. Yeats surely had to turn up. All that patriotism and Irishness and his famous Easter 1916. A slam dunk, it had to feature, didn't it?
Well, no, it didn’t as it happened.
Teacher was right
No Yeats on the Leaving Cert English in the centenary year, with all the media surround sound that helped them get a good grasp of it all. May not have made a whole heap of sense to the untrained eye but that’s the lottery. The teacher who said don’t bank on it was right.
But the death poet of my Leaving Cert, Emily Dickinson, did turn up. She who wrote, I felt a funeral in my Brain. I remember her as morbid and morose, but apparently she's not all that bad. Even has some happy clappy stuff. Happy days for those who chose her.
Maths was next. Dread one minute, hope and anticipation the next. Unlike his mother, my lad likes maths. But he’s been busy looking at horrible past paper questions in recent weeks and so is pleasantly surprised by what appears to have been a pretty okay paper.
His cousin, doing the same exam in Tipperary, came down with a bug that morning. She did the exam quarantined in a room on her own with a bucket by the side of the desk. An unexpected curve ball that didn't have any respect for the Leaving Cert exam.
Maths 2 was a much more difficult proposition than what went before it. Not entirely unexpected, it was tricky and unpopular. Terrorism turned up on the first Irish paper, as the Florida massacre details unfolded. He says he spent an hour planning the essay. I raise an eyebrow – then quickly drop it.
My young man’s godmother-cum-grand-aunt is praying for him during it all. She’s a nun so that’s her specialism. She has several grandnieces and grandnephews to pray for this exam season and so she’s working hard.
Lots of candles are lit as she taps on the door of the man above each morning.
We all need her to keep it up now for just one more week until we get there.