What an extraordinary year it has been for the class of 2020! Their final year has been more challenging than they ever could have imagined, and we are enormously proud of what they have achieved. We caught up with two Year 12 students to get their thoughts on the rollercoaster year they had. ‘Keeping the motivation to put maximum effort into what I was doing’ was the biggest challenge this year for Jennifer Clarke, a student at Mount Waverley Secondary College. ‘We were isolated from everyone and missed out on a lot of the structure and interaction that kept us engaged normally in a class.’ To overcome this challenge, Jennifer made lists of what she wanted to achieve each day and focused on completing as many tasks as possible.
Jennifer has also learned a lot about herself this year, including that she works best when interacting with others and the importance of mindfulness. ‘I played a role at my school in reflecting on the first lockdown and highlighting how important it was to learn from that when we entered lockdown 2.0. The information gathered really helped to change policies in the second lockdown at my school,’ Jennifer said.
For John Anastasoglou, a student at Vermont Secondary College, staying mentally healthy was one of his biggest challenges. ‘People ask me a lot what remote learning was like during Year 12 and basically it was a constant loop day after day. This combined with the lack of social interaction made it more difficult to keep that mental balance and stay mentally healthy.’ To adapt to the changes, John regularly caught up with friends online, continued exercising and engaged in other self-care activities.
This year has helped John to develop his own mental strength. ‘Moving forward, the challenges that I have overcome whilst passing Year 12 during a global pandemic will help me to realise how resilient I can be in difficult times,’ John said.
Recognising the challenges faced by students this year, the ‘Consideration of Educational Disadvantage’ process has been introduced to take into account significant disruptions to student learning caused by the coronavirus. ‘I think it’s a really good inclusion because, as my Psychology teacher always says, “we are all in the same storm but in different boats”,’ John said.
Teachers, parents and the VCAA are all enormously proud of what Victorian students have achieved during this complex year. For John, one of his proudest achievements was, ‘continuing to find a way to connect with the school community as House Captain and School Captain and lead the way through the pandemic.’ This year has enabled him to learn a lot about his leadership style.
One of Jennifer’s proudest achievements was her role as Deputy College Captain and as a leader at her school. Having completed their final year in extraordinary circumstances, Jennifer and John had some great advice for next year’s VCE cohort.
‘Keep a healthy study-life balance and look after your mental health,’ is John’s advice. ‘When you keep a good balance, that is when you are going to perform at your best rather than just studying lots,’ he said.
Jennifer’s advice is ‘not to forget the lessons you have learned and the skillset you have developed during lockdown. Your resilience, motivation and study habits, even the things that you now know you are weakest at, are really important to take into next year.’
According to Jennifer, ‘in the end, Year 12 is a hurdle that you can cross but it is not the be all and end all and certainly not the only pathway to a career or happiness in the future.’