The Student Species: subgroups at examination time
As our matriculants settle in for the long haul of final NSC examinations, examine this list of student-types and see if you recognize yourself or if you are a parent, ask yourself which one of these incarnations is occupying space at your breakfast table. If you are in the grips of exam fever, remember, it is not a terminal illness, although how you treat the malady may determine your fate:
In a typical classroom, or lurking in his bedroom in your home, one may find the following personas (genders transferable)
- Last-minute, Lazy Larry: He leaves everything to the last minute because he couldn’t be bothered. Then his work is of course somewhat pedestrian or he cruises to good marks with no effort. He battles to complete his degree in 3 years because his work ethic is so poor. He is a regular at nightclubs and surfspots during exam time. His parents are very busy.
- Tessa the Terrified is usually friends with Nancy the Nervous. They tend to focus on the fear of academics and appear like bokkies in the headlights when confronted by difficult work and stressful situations. They are the ones seen scurrying around before examinations, or anxiously scanning textbooks minutes before called into the examination room. They live on Rescue Remedy and their mothers have used up the medical savings plan by mid-March of any year on anxiety medication.
- Terry the Tortoise: We all know who won the race, don’t we? Terry plods along devotedly, trying out all the exemplars on the internet and attending all his extra lessons, checking and rechecking all his examination answers. Slow and sure wins the race. Teachers love Terry and he is inevitably successful in life.
- Then there is Terry’s rival, Rushing Russell: He is the first one finished in every examination. He sits with his arms folded, assuring his invigilators that he has checked all his answers. He is yet to score 100% for anything. He loves finals because he can leave as soon as he likes. He has been known to miss a few questions because he didn’t turn over the last page of his question paper. Teachers throw their hands in the air in distress when they see him emerge after one hour from a three-hour paper.
- Angie, the Agile is dating Russell (for now). She’s the smart-alecky kid who spots questions for her History papers, never spending more than an hour or two studying for any test. She will dump Russell after school and marry Terry because he has made more money. He will buy her a Nail Bar to keep her busy, because she can’t finish any course of study.
- Another popular couple is Avril the Avoider and Peter the Procrastinator. They never get around to studying for any length of time either, because they waste too much time tidying their desks, pouring coffee, adjusting songs on their ipods and ‘just quickly’ going on Whatsapp. When their parents buy them iPhone 6’s (not a smart move).they are doomed to mediocrity. Cassio the Casual often joins them when he is not shooting people on the latest bloodthirsty, Call of Duty-type Xbox game.
- Then there is David the Dedicated who is diligent and conscientiously prepares ahead of every session. His timetable has been up since June and he has model answers pasted in his bathroom. He is entirely focused on his studies and has a clear goal in mind. He sometimes is considered a bit of loner or is called a killjoy at times because he refuses clubbing invitations now and then to study, but his mansion is often a hub of activity after he qualifies. His parties make the social pages then. His cousin, Richard the Recluse, is a different kettle of fish. He does too much; over tries and sometimes works too hard, second guessing himself all the time.
- Stephen the Selfish and Brenda with Blinkers are not popular with their classmates. They are too focused on their own goals and refuse to assist their mates in study groups. They achieve straight A’s in the NSC examinations, but fail to be accepted at UCT Medical School because they have no history of outreach work. They join in the complaints of Elvis the Efficient who shouts at Hyperactive Hettie who is all over the place and eager for any conversation not about work. They find the student protests of @Feesmustfall to be an annoying waste of their time. Their parents were furious that they were not made prefects in matric.
- Hettie did have the prettiest dress at the matric dance though – everyone knew exactly what it would look like because she thought of nothing else.
- Stephen will marry Helga the Hostile who also hates group work. They will have separate bedrooms and be blissfully happy. Brenda will become a research scientist and is happy living alone in a cottage next to her private laboratory.
- Sickly Samantha isn’t really. She stays home to avoid dealing with school. The vicious circle eats her in the end.
- Then there is Mira the Magnificent, who is the envy of the class because she is annoyingly lazy (She’s near genius and a smarter version of Larry), but pulls rabbits out of a hat in every test. Her teachers often wonder just how brilliantly she could perform if she put in the same amount of work as Terry. She battles a bit at university due to her tardy work ethic, but is generally more stimulated there.
- Rory the Resistant hates school and all his teachers. He is biding his time until he can play professional sport. He has no Plan B after playing for Barcelona and after he injures his knee at Ajax trials he is forced to sell shoes for a living. Spiro the Sports Maniac is his best friend. They do all their orals on sport.
- Warren the Wallpaper flies beneath the radar. He is not a discipline problem and escapes notice by doing the bare minimum to pass. He will probably have ADD children later in life and wonder if that was his problem.
- Babsie the Butterfly is friends with Angie, but is too flakey to care at all about school. She ends up working in Angie’s salon, where she loves to gossip with the clients.
- Cedrick the Pseudo-Clever believes he’s over school and foolish teachers. He underachieves in matric, flunks out of varsity because he has no work ethic and is laughed at by lecturers for his wannabe-intellectual, attention-seeking ploys in lectures. His parents started out thinking he is a genius and realise too late that that they have spoiled him.
- Thando the Talented grew up with He does it all with ease and is immensely popular too. He plays first team cricket and soccer, as well as moonlighting in the hockey side. He scores straight A’s with ease and can sing and dance too. His parents are humble, but support all his endeavours, although his mother worries he over-commits.
- Inez the Insecure is afraid to try because she might fail. It’s safer for her to go along with Cassio and pretend school is beneath her. Her twin brother Cassiem the Careful drives his teachers mad by counting every word in his essays more than he edits his work. Both spend a lot of time with therapists.
Of course this is all just fun. They are not based on anyone specific, but on students I have encountered over my 20-odd years in teaching.Chances are that you are a mosaic of all these types.