Schools shower chocolates, ice-cream and sweet gestures to ease exam-time nerves

Forty minutes before her geometry exam this Thursday, SSC student Nehal Yadav learnt a multiplication 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 a smile during the exams instead of avoiding them.Such Facebook-sourced seeds 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-year-old 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.
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