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Nabbed by those nagging doubts

IT was the second Friday of the fourth-years' study leave. On arriving home I should have been able to bound through the house door, slide my bag across the floor and take the steps in threes, loosening my tie while asking the family where the action was at the weekend. Instead, I was ready to flop on to the couch and sleep.

Why? Because it was End of Season NAB clear-up day.

First off there had been the Advanced Higher trio, doing their last end of unit test. They had covered the course with around half the timetabled teacher contact time recommended but had never lost their interest and enthusiasm. All passed, to my immense relief.

Then came the Intermediate 2 resitters. NAB-wise, they were drinking in the last chance saloon. Again, there were three of them but one I was particularly worried about. Donnie had been a low-grade pest in his early years and could even now occasionally be seen at the wrong end of a wagging finger. In physics, however, he had worked well and contributed to the class. He had also failed unit 1.

After a week of practice questions, I felt he was ready to try again. His confidence was fragile so I tried to talk him up with some "Go for gold, you can do it!" corn.

Donnie began question one. Hovering at a discreet distance, I was happy to see that what he was writing made sense. Then he stopped. Left a huge blank.

With reddening lugs, he was about to begin question two. Perhaps it was unprofessional of me to intervene, but I did. Still reading upside down from a distance, I had suddenly realised that this boy had a mental block against doing some particular arithmetical operation. Guilty that I hadn't picked it up before, I whispered: "Donnie, you are allowed to divide a wee number by a big number." He went back to question one and was off like a greyhound after a rabbit.

More reading upside down - after half an hour it became clear that the lad was well in control, but it was another half hour of tension which contributed to me feeling washed out when I got home.

NAB tests, eh? I was one of those who rejected both options A and B in the recent consultation. NABs have generally served my own set of circumstances well. What a pity, though, that nobody seems to have listened to the Scottish Parent Teacher Council's hugely sensible suggestion that we require only two out of three unit passes and an exam pass for a course award.

That might take the strain off my upholstery a little.

Gregor Steele is asleep.

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