Forty minutes before her geometry exam this Thursday , SSC student Nehal Yadav learnt a multiplica tion trick from a corn farmer.Every year, this farmer would give away some of his high-quality seeds to neighbours. Later, a lucrative breeze would usher pollen from their crops to his farm. This cross-pollination would bring him not only the best crop but also the ``best farmer' award annually . The moral of this story narrated breathlessly by Yadav's Algebra teacher, Amit Thakur, was that happiness multiplies by sharing positivity and so she must greet other students with asmile during the exams instead of avoiding them.
Such Facebook-sourced se eds of wisdom are what Thakur--who covers five exam centres in Navi Mumbai on a bike before every paper--shares with his SSC students trusting that nature return the favour during the results. “I have more faith in motivational than in god,“ says Thakur, whose students seek out his “pravachans“ to escape the pre-exam drama of rustling books, pacing students, anxious parents and, as Yadav puts it, “stereotypical teachers who ask us if we are prepared.“
Thakur of Airoli's Sushiladevi Deshmukh Vidyalaya may not be stereotypical but his school-sanctioned motivational rounds are typical of a young trend fuelled by the pursuit of board exam success. In the bid to show they care, schools are showering meticulous checklists, mindfulness strategies and such keen personal touches that you'd be forgiven for mistaking the hall ticket for a business class pass.
If Santacruz's R N Podar School held a yoga session for students 90 minutes before their first paper, Sangita Kukreti, principal ofVile Parle's Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial School, spent five days last week phoning each of her 300 students to wish them luck. As a tradition, her school hands out sugar candy as prasad to each student, reminding you of a Gujarat exam centre that recently handed students welcome drinks and sprinkled flowers on them.
Snigdha Roy , principal of Vashi's Father Agnel school, calls them `feel-good'' gestures. “They make students feel confident,“ says Roy , whose school distributed a pre-exam `shopping list' that comprised, among other things, 20 chocolates. “One to be eaten on each day of the exam period,“ says Roy , like a doctor prescribing a dosage. This list even advises students to ``change the watch battery“, “carry an extra set of glasses“ and “visit the dentist“.The last one should come in handy for another reason. “On the last day , we treat all the students to ice-cream,“ says Roy .
In fact, till two years ago, Roy's school used to drop children at their centre in school buses but they stopped as “centres are too scattered now,“ says Roy . A teacher's presence at the centre has hidden perks. Years ago, history teacher Shobhana Ramana, rushed a nervous student, who had ended up at the wrong centre, to the right venue in her car. “I'd forgotten about this but she still remembers,“ says Ramana, about the ex-student.
Younger schools are more eager to please. “They are nervous,“ says SSC student Ritika Mukherjee about her two-yearold Thane school, New Horizon, whose vice-principal showed up at the exam centre to hand out chocolate bars before the English paper. “It defused our tension,“ says Mukherjee, who tucked the bar into her bag and bit into it after the exam.
Technology too comes to the rescue. With the help of a system called RFID (radio frequency identification)--the use of radio waves to read information stored on a tag attached to student identity cards--Shobhana Nandakumar, principal of Dombivli's The South Indian Association (SIA) High School, sends a good luck SMS to 200 board exam attendees via their parents' phones. “Even parents feel reassured that we care,“ she says. Besides, through an app called Fliplearn, where teachers connect with students in real-time, these students receive proverbs like: `Think high and you will raise high' and `Do the best you can until you know better'.“We even upload photos of toppers on our facebook page,“ says Nandakumar.
Sometimes, higher forces than social media are invoked.To seduce lady luck, who sits somewhere between prayer and practice. Some high-end schools invite experts on Buddhist chanting and Vipassana meditation to prep minds. In the backdrop, school counsellors ease mental traffic. Recently, SIA's school counsellor Swati Parab formed a support group of ten slacking students who called themselves `Rising Stars'. “What if we go blank in the exam hall?“ they asked Parab, who dismissed the fear by comparing the brain to Google.“If you search calmly , the answers will come sooner or later,“ says Parab, who also choregoraphed their dreams when she asked them to “visualise yourself writing each paper well, 15 days before the exams“.
Part cheerleader, part lifecoach, their tactics may seem hippy-dippy--at least one student said a yoga session before the exam wasn't calming--but schools say they help. “I get grateful SMSes from students,“ says Thakur, who believes attention is the best way to show you care. Sometimes it could come from unlikely sources. SSC student Jayalakshmi Iyer of Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir Trust, lit up at an unprecedented sight before her exam. “The security guards smiled and said good morning,“ she says.