School sidewalk vigils

Although the school year has just ended across Turkey, the girlsand’ high school around the corner from our house was holding some sort of exam this weekend.
I know this because both sides of the sidewalk were once again lined with anxious parents, many holding prayer books and whispering fervent pleas for their child to do well on whatever this latest exam was measuring. Just as every other exam given at the school entailed masses of parents lingering outside the school doors, perching on the low walls in front of apartment buildings and filling the one tiny cafandeacute to overflowing, this latest test seemed to bring out parents in record numbers.
Earlier this year, as the date for the first half of the TEOG, the national exam for entrance into high school, approached, I received a call from my sonand’s school counselor. and”I just wanted to let you know,and” she said, and”that we are asking parents not to come and wait at the school or across the street from the school during the exam.and” Surprised, I asked her why parents would think it was necessary to take time off of work to stand outside a school while their children took a test. To me, it seemed an odd thing to do. She nervously giggled as I told her that it had never entered my mind to go and stand just beyond the school gates, praying and waiting. I realized that this was yet another mysterious custom that I would probably never fully understand.
When I was attending school, I personally would have been mortified if my parents had taken time away from their jobs to come and stand outside of my school while I took the national college entrance exams. I grew up in the countryside, so my school was a 45-minute bus ride away from our home. Like most of my classmates, we rode the yellow school buses to classes, so having our parents walk around the corner to hold a vigil outside the school was not an option. It would have required a trek across the countryside for them to come and wait. In addition, the test scores of the American exams, as is the case with the Turkish national exams, are not announced until later, once scores are tallied and recorded, which can take a month or two. So, all of those waiting parents will not have any concrete news about the exam scores as soon as their children complete them.
Perhaps these parents loiter outside of the schoolyards just in case their children feel the need for comforting once they have completed their exams. They may be standing there in a show of solidarity with their children. Maybe they are hoping that their prayers will suddenly inspire their child, who will then suddenly find the motivation required to ace the exam, finding that they unexpectedly know all the answers to all of the test questions.
h2Congregtating outside schoolyardsh2 My sonand’s school counselor could not find a way to explain to me why parents in Turkey tend to congregate outside schoolyards while their children take exams. As was often the case when I posed questions to the counselor, she was confused about why I questioned the reasons behind something that seems normal to her and to other parents. It was so easy for me to imagine her shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders as she struggled to find the words to clarify to me the schooland’s need to place calls to parents, asking them not to come to the school on exam days. I explained that in many other countries, the parents would not even consider waiting outside the school. The students take the exams, finish their school day and return home. There is no need for parents to spend the day loitering on the sidewalk. By the end of our conversation, she was laughing and agreeing that it did seem somewhat silly. However, I could understand that for many children and families, their entire future is based on the outcome of these exams. Which schools they will be accepted into and what subjects they will study can be decided by these tests. Some parents want to show their emotional and moral support by being physically near their child.
Fortunately for me, my son and I have a different attitude and understanding of support. He returned home after the exams and talked about how he thought he had done. We both know that now the exams are finished, there is nothing we can do except wait for the official results to be announced. Then we will see what his options are and decide what will best fit into his plans for what he would like to study in the future.
So, as my son and I tried to wind our way through the throngs of waiting parents this week, forced to step into the street while avoiding oncoming traffic because the sidewalks were completely blocked by unmoving parents, I wondered if the students found comfort in knowing that their parents were patiently waiting and praying outside. I asked my son if he wished that I had come to wait outside his school, like so many of the parents who ignored the schooland’s pleas, and waited in the hot sun while he took his TEOG exams. Looking aghast, he replied: and”No way, mom! I would have been so embarrassed if I walked out and you were on the sidewalk praying like some of the other moms and dads. And, I think it would have added even more stress to think about you waiting out there for me to finish the tests. Iand’m glad you did not show up.and” Relieved that I had made the right choice for us, we shouldered and elbowed our way through the horde of parents who had taken over the limited sidewalks of our neighborhood.
Hopefully, all of these children had studied hard and were well prepared for whatever this latest test was for. If so, maybe the prayers of the impatient parents on the sidewalks were answered after all. I know that our tiny local cafandeacute is always grateful for the increased business of exam days, but for me, I personally prefer to have our tiny sidewalks empty and easy to traverse.
Send comments to

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman