Tuesday 17 May 2011

A Scotsman, Greece, and an English Exam

On Sunday I sat my English exam. It's the equivalent of a Scottish Higher. If I pass, they'll think about letting me continue working as an English teacher. They don't care if I've got a degree and a PGCE. This is Greece. If you pass your Higher English, or the acceptable equivalent, you're in.

I arrived at the school an hour early (I'm that kinda guy), got an iced coffee from the tuck shop and smoked ten fags. We were led to a room on the first floor. I was the only person over sixteen. Apart from the Invigilator, of course, who told us to turn off our mobile phones and place them under our chairs. Mine was already turned off. It was in the inside pocket of my jacket. She told us again - phones off and under the chairs. We stared at her as one. Nobody moved.

The exam was in three parts. We started with Writing. The rubric said something about childhood being the best days of your life. I scribbled for half an hour. Then it was pencils down. Next was the Listening test, multiple choice questions based on short dialogues, then longer pieces featuring an intelligent octopus and the Wright Brothers. The final part was Use Of English and Reading, 120 multiple choice questions - Grammar, Vocabulary, a Cloze passage and four reading passages. It was all very straightforward, as well it might have been. I've been teaching the syllabus for this exam for the last 21 years.

I went downstairs at the end, dying for a coffee, but the tuck shop was shut. So I stood at the side of the car and had a fag. The exam isn't over yet - I've got an Oral in two weeks. I drove home. Later that evening I treated myself to a bottle of Rets down the Caff and worked on a story about cliques.

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