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Confession: French Lesson
Dear Simon and the drive time confessional team,
I was moved to unburden myself with my exam confession after hearing the confession the other day where the Confessor re-wrote the exam papers of 3 bullies. My confession goes back to school in the mid 70’s and like everyone else I was having to take a broad spectrum of subjects. Most of these did not fill me with enthusiasm and being a fairly bright person, I spent most of my time playing sport and working out how I could get away doing the very minimum of work, if I could not work out how to avoid attending the lessons at all.
One such subject was French. I had failed to find any excuse to avoid the lessons, I just attended class without enthusiasm. But rather than disturb the lesson I sat towards the rear of the class positioning myself behind a pillar which ran down the side of the room, supporting the roof. Thus positioned I was able to close my eyes without the teacher seeing me
and therefore proceeded to try and sleep though the next couple of years of French.
I am sure the teacher knew what was going on but as I always handed my homework in on time and didn’t cause any trouble. Apart from a few comments at parent/teacher evenings about me being ‘very quiet in class’, the teacher didn’t say too much, and my grades were just high enough not to get me in trouble. Most of these grades were obtained with the aid of my older brother’s school books.
Well, exam day came along and the class was ushered into the large hall, there were many other classes there as well, and my class was led up on to the stage while the other classes were led to the auditorium’s floor which was full of desks and chairs, looking up at us. I took my seat, not looking forward to the ordeal to come. The papers were laid out and I took out my pen.
The command was given and I turned my paper over, I stared at it blankly, nothing was coming in to my head, and even though it was a multiple choice
paper, not one answer was coming to me. It was in this despair that I looked around and then noticed to my left and just 1 row in front of me was the brightest girl in the class, Sophie, rushing through the paper. I could not help myself Simon, as I sat there knowing not one answer, my eyes went over to her paper and her answers were clearly visible. I copied her answers on to my paper as quick as she could circle them and within minutes
she had finished the exam. I had finished as well without understanding one question; I quickly changed two answers to something else to make sure they did not pick up the fact I had cheated. I rose from my seat and quietly left the hall with my French teacher looking at me with the knowing smile that said “we knew you weren't going to do well but at least you turned up”.
Well the rest of the exams went by with me making a little more of an effort, and it was soon time to settle back and await the results. Needless to say my results came back and for most subjects the grades were pretty much in line with the effort I had put in - apart from my French results…. I was asked to attend the headmaster’s office with the French teacher after school. I was now very worried, had I been found out? Seated in the headmaster’s office with the French teacher, I could see a worried look on her face. The headmaster addressed me, that’s my lot I thought, but no, the headmaster informed me that I had scored the highest mark out of everyone who had taken the test, even the girl I had copied from, My deliberate wrong answers had, by chance, by divine intervention, turned out to be the right ones .The headmaster asked me to take French as a high level exam subject as I was sure to get a good grade. By now my French teacher’s face looked full of worry, but despite the headmaster’s protestations, I refused to take French, saying I had other subjects I wanted to take, the look on the French teacher face was one of relief – as she wouldn’t have to teach me anymore.
When I received that year’s prize for French- Proust's La Recherche Du Temps Perdu in bound leather, at the special end of term assembly, I admit to a few pangs of guilt. Swot Sophie's face was a picture. She wanted that book, she should have won that book and more to the point, could have actually read that book.
So Simon, I ask forgiveness from the girl whose paper I copied, and for getting a higher mark than her, when she should have had the plaudits.I ask forgiveness from the headmaster for not deserving all the nice things he said about me, but most of all to the French teacher for the 4 years I had put her through and the heart attack I nearly gave her when she thought she would have to teach me for another 2. If it is any consolation I now earn my living training and teaching adults so I can understand how terrible I must have been.