Never mind the children. You're the victim here
It's that time of year again, when intelligent, well-qualified professionals suddenly leave the comfort of their teaching rooms and start the long run in to the exam season. Exam invigilation is the curse of the summer, the only benefit being the relief it brings from study leave. The question is: who will be strong enough to make it through without losing more of their faculties?
Newly qualified teachers won't understand the feelings a "double" invigilation stirs first thing in the morning when you look at the cover board. They have yet to experience their first two-hour invigilation in 30C temperatures with half the students in the hall blowing their noses or coughing in some "terminal" way. Old hands will have their own strategies for coping with the sheer boredom of the task, and the NQTs will quickly realise that if they want their brains to remain functional they need to find a way of keeping them active.
The exam season usually starts off with the drafting of a provisional invigilation timetable and every member of staff counting the number of extra non-contacts they will have gained. Everybody then looks for the double invigilation sessions, which are the worst. Teachers convince themselves it's not that bad - it beats a lesson with Year 9. You get to the exam hall, thank a higher power that you are not the person in charge, and find yourself a place at the back to dig in for the long haul.
One lucky person gets to organise the seating plan and register. The rest of the invigilators start the endless walking between aisles and checking for turns of the head, dropping of pens or the rustling of sweet papers. There is always one NQT who realises her mistake in wearing high heels in a sports hall - she'll spend the rest of the time walking on tiptoe.
Ten minutes in and you can't remember what the fuss was about. Then it hits you: there are 300 sweaty, stressed students in front of you, all of whom seem to be coughing and sneezing. You worry that you might catch something nasty and swear to top up on the vitamins when you get home. The science teachers will appreciate the perfect conditions for the transfer of bacteria - a closed, humid room containing hundreds of people. This causes mass panic among the staff, who start to move around - if they keep moving they won't catch anything.
Thirty minutes into the exam, your legs are starting to ache and you think a sit down would be good. But you remember that it's against the rules - you must keep moving, being vigilant yet discreet. You resign yourself to fighting on: the exam still has two hours to run, but you are finished in 20 minutes. It's at this point you start to look at your watch.
Now you might as well give up, as this is the point total boredom sets in. It is essential that you put off the clock-watching as long as possible. Once it starts, you will count every passing minute, making the time drag further. You start to watch the exam clock, counting as the second hand goes around for a full minute, and then reassure yourself that it's still running to time. While you have been doing this, more experienced members of staff will have started their final move - towards the door.
It is always the strategic move at the end that counts: who moves towards the door first. You do not want to be seen to be the first, but then again you don't want to be the last. The wait for the other teachers to come and relieve you is the longest. Hang in there, it's almost over. Spare a thought for the poor staff member who upset the person who organises cover, and was clobbered with a double invigilation at the last minute - a mistake not to be repeated.
The brain will play tricks, and you will go in to a zombie-like state of mind. But you will make it, in time to face Year 9. And 10 minutes into the lesson you'll be wishing you were back in that exam hall.
David Waugh is an advanced skills teacher at Northampton school for boys
* Check the invigilation timetable carefully. You do not want to be late to relieve another teacher unless you want to make an enemy for life.
* Remind yourself of the invigilation rules. These will be posted up outside the exam hall.
* Always carry paper with you when walking around the exam hall. Someone is bound to want some when you are a long way from the pile at the front.
* Wear quiet shoes - essential.
* Start to take your vitamins early unless you want two weeks off with flu.
* Keep your brain active with mind games. Try not to let on what these are if you want to hold your head up in the staffroom again.
* Keep reminding yourself that it is better to be in your position than the students'. No one would want to take exams again.
* Don't be the first person to move for the door at the end of the session - you'll never live it down.
* Carry an eraser with you - it's one item students always forget.
* Keep smiling. You will get out of there. Honestly, you will.