Invigilation. A strange, vaguely ridiculous word. A tedious duty for most academics and one which many universities are now subcontracting.
I never found invigilation to be a waste of time. Quite apart from ensuring that students do not cheat during their exams (thereby devaluing the degrees we award), invigilation offers some time to observe, to think and occasionally to discover. I remember conducting silent surveys regarding the numbers of left-handed students and the places where they prefer to sit ...
I am writing these words looking at a class of 64 final year students writing their examinations. A lot of anxiety in the room, mixed with concentration, application and hope. I try to imagine these same students in 10, 20, 30 and 50 years' time. I am trying to think of each and every one of them. A has become a museum curator, B a wine-taster, C an actor, D a community organizer, E married 3 times, inherited a fortune and never had to work in her life.
F's promising musical career was cut short by cancer. F rose to great corporate levels, but was sacked at 50, an alcoholic by then. G, never a great student, is now a government minister. H's depression got the better of him - he still lives with his mother who is dutifully caring for him. J, the genius of the class, now runs very successfully a warehouse business.
There are future furniture salesmen, stockbrokers, adventurers, soldiers, househusbands, property speculators and maybe even the odd academic in the room. And then there are those in jobs yet to be invented.
How do I know? I am looking at a room when 40 years ago I was taking my high school examinations and I know what happened to those sitting next to me in that classroom. What I didn't know then and what I don't know now is how Fortune will dispense her blessings and curses to each person.
64 students in a room. The same as the number of squares on the chessboard. 64 life stories in the making. 64 bright and promising young people in charge of their destiny. But have they consulted Fortune?