Hard Work and Nervousness Before Relief and Success
The 2nd Grade Primary to Senior Year Zuloaga School students came face to face with the unknown last week. From May 21st-25th they received that expected, but feared appointment slip in class notifying them to go to the waiting area. The English teacher monitoring that day welcomed them with a smile and tried to calm them down as much as possible for their imminent moment of truth. The pupils gave their appointment slip to the monitor and then took a seat, in order, in the hallway to await their fate.
Many children were at ease and relaxed while sitting waiting their turn. Their mood reflected the confidence they felt because they had come well-prepared after days and days of hard work and practice with their English teachers, not only during classtime, but also during recesses and in a few cases, even on the schoolbus! They had also reviewed and practiced a lot at home. Some spent their waiting time taking a last look at their topic notes or question-answer practice sheets. These students were ready for the big day. Their faces reflected apparent calm because they had nothing to fear.
The children who came for the first time were also quite relaxed because they didn´t know exactly what was about to happen, and they were unaware of the importance of the situation.
However, the older the students were, the more nervous they arrived. Constant giggles and non-stop talking made their fears evident. Trembling knees, and hands and feet in constant motion showed just how nervous these not-so-brave pupils were. Some couldn´t seem to sit still, and others even got up and paced the floor. Several asked if there was time to go to the bathroom upon feeling a sudden urge to go; another made the Sign of the Cross, and one young boy even began praying aloud the day I was the monitor! I even had to knock and give one little girl a gentle push through the door because she had decided not to go in at the last moment!
As monitors us teachers try to make the students relax by offering to answer their last-minute questions and clear up any doubts they may have. We go over the procedure they must do first: knock on the door, open it, say hello and ask permission to go in. We tell them how to pronounce the name of the person awaiting them on the other side of the door, and we offer to hear their topic one last time. We assure them that everything will go fine because they´ve prepared for this day, and that it´s not such a big deal. It´s not a life-or-death situation and if they should fail, they can always try again next year so it´s not something to be so worried and nervous about. If their jitters are really obvious and exaggerated, we suggest relaxation techniques like taking a deep breath and exhaling very slowly, little by little several times. Another suggestion to calm them down is to have them close their eyes while turning their head very, very slowly making wide circles, first three or four times in one direction and then in the opposite direction. They almost fall asleep with this exercise!
What is this that has our pupils so exaggeratedly nervous and scared???? It´s just the Trinity College oral English exams!!
Our pupils spend from five minutes with the British examiner for the Level 1 exam up to 25 minutes for Levels 10-12. When they come out of the exam we immediately notice the big change in the expression on their face. The great majority come out smiling and relieved because they´ve done well and because the Trinity´s over with until next year. We always ask them how it went, and they usually give answers like: “Fine.”, “Very Good.”, “Great!”, “The examiner was really nice.” or even, “It was easy!”
Late Friday afternoon the two examiners, Ms. Jania Napier-Burrows and Mr. Michael Cross, finished the last exams of the week. They then held a feed-back session with our two English Department Coordinators, Ms. Cheryl Whitmill and Mr. Carlos Álvarez. The examiners´ comments were positive, in general, and they made some constructive suggestions for next time. After thanking the examiners and saying good-bye to them, our coordinators were anxious and nervous to look through the individual examination report sheets to see this year´s Trinity results. Our students aren’t the only nervous ones during the Trinity exams. We teachers are also always very nervous because you never know whether or not students who did fine practicing with their teachers will perform equally as well with a British stranger who knows no Spanish. Some pupils may even freeze or go blank and not say anything at all because they are so nervous or because they made little effort to prepare for the exam.
The smiles of satisfaction on the faces of most of our students and their positive comments when they came out of the exam proved to be right! 94% of our 266 pupils who did the Trinity exam PASSED!!! CONGRATULATIONS to our students and their English teachers for their hours and hours and days and days of work, practice and preparation! We must also thank their parents and their other teachers for all their help and collaboration! These wonderful results are due to EVERYONE´S effort and cooperation.
The Trinity implies lots of hard work, time and nervousness for our students, but it also teaches them an important lesson. It´s indisputable proof that effort and perserverance brings success!