So many articles were written for the Class of 2020.
They were the first group who had any experience of Covid-19. They endured their first ever school closures. Home-learning, home schooling, pandemics and vaccines were phrases that were new to us all. Their patience and resilience were commended. Then it all continued for a while longer and we got to the Class of 2021. So many functions got cancelled including school formals, graduations, final year gatherings and social events, that made for a memorable (and at times sad) final year. Exams being held over Zoom, and modified schedules kept everyone on their toes. Again their resilience, determination and commitment to their schooling was applauded.
And now we have the Class of 2022. I have not seen the same quantity of letters, columns, and opinion pieces in the news and other forums patting them on the back. In short, we have become used to Covid, and we are now hoping to see the back of it. But our Class of 2022 have had the longest amount of time dealing with the pandemic, a whole three years to be exact. If we want to get mathematical, that is 50% of their high school years that have been lived through a Covid-19 lens. That will make for some interesting stories to future grandchildren. It can also make for some dynamic and innovative skills and experiences that would not have come about otherwise.
So now that exams are over, the sun has started shining, hopefully the storms and rains subsiding, what can we take from this year, and how can this class look forward? I would like to highlight 6 reflections for the Class of 2022 to draw from.
Enjoy all that you were involved in at school.
This doesn’t mean all that you learnt in school. The classroom stuff, yes, this is important. But so are all of the social learnings. Almost more so. Communication and People skills are the most sought-after skills, by the most amount of employers, in the most amount of industries. No better place on the planet to learn and fine tune these skills than at school surrounded by hundreds of others. Everywhere you look there are people. There are groups. There are social nuances to understand. Never underestimate how much social learning has taken place simply by being on your school grounds. Each activity you were involved in, whether it was a school production, a sports team, a chess club, or a charity drive – this is where the best social skills are learnt. Never undervalue the importance of all that you learnt, just by being involved.
The values that you developed are embedded during your time in a school campus.
Yes, a lot of values are taught to us in school. This could be about right or wrong. It could be about how we treat others. It could be about being humble, or being brave or sticking up for others. These are values that are nurtured at school. I went to a strict Catholic Convent school in Ireland, that was run by nuns that I found a bit scary. But I remember the values that they placed on manners, respect and treating others fairly. This is something that has stayed with me throughout my adult years, and I am now so grateful that they drilled this into us all. Don’t underestimate those values, that will show their importance to you, maybe not today but over time.
The skills that you loved developing, using and getting better at during school – are a very good indicator of the skills that you will want to use later on in your career.
And the secret to an enjoyable career is to find out what you are good at, and to then use those skills. I wish I had figured this out when I was at school. I wish I had re-read all of my reports that told me to stop talking with my friends in class. To stop connecting with others. Talking with others is probably what I do for the majority of my day. It is the most essential part of my job. Think back on your school days of what you were really good at. And not just the academic stuff. You may have been great at Chemistry, but were you also great at bossing everyone around, and delegating tasks when you were organising your group projects? Did you get Cs in English, but found you came alive when you were immersed in Art class and left alone for hours working on your Major Art Work? And was organising the school BBQ a highlight for you, because you got to plan an event, oversee the whole thing and raise money for a good cause? Reflect on this. These are all great skills you will want to choose from on how you want to spend your working day. And never underestimate the skills that you never learnt at school, that you are still yet to learn. You may be absolutely brilliant at a skill never tried out yet. This is likely as new jobs, opportunities and options become available. Feel positive about the future areas you may shine at.
Some of you may not have found your work ethic yet.
For some this may take time to cultivate. For others, you have may have had it since Kindy. And for a few, you may need to wait until you are doing a job that you adore. Or that you hate. Business owners I know who struggled at school, but are now thriving, tell me they just needed to find their own mission. Many start-ups and entrepreneurs have cited learning differences and divergences, that they felt held them back at school. But once they found their own business, their work ethic soared. Don’t feel your work ethic at school is your work ethic for life. We can change over time.
Now you get to go off-road.
School has a completely linear trajectory. You can now navigate your own direction. And for many, this encompasses forwards, sidewards, slightly backwards and diagonal paths. You can decide how flexible you want to be with your studies. You can choose full time, part time, online, or in-person options. You can decide to study double degrees, flexible majors, optional electives, out-of-faculty learning and a myriad of study options that you have never had access to before. You can choose overseas exchanges, internships, start-up ventures, and business opportunities that have never been on the table before. Universities know they have to offer all of this to lure you in. Use these opportunities as much as possible. Studying what you are really interested in can feel thrilling. Knowing that it is moving you in a direction that excites you, even more so. Connect with as many people as possible. You never know when your paths may cross again. And part of this off road terrain will include side hustles in the gig economy. Never more so because of Covid, as flexible work forces, new ways of working, technology to support this flexibility, and potentially 4-day work weeks are now all under the spotlight. From that point of view our Class of 2022 are going to have options available to them that five years ago we never thought possible. There are a lot of positives to come out of the last three years from a work point of view, and these new frontiers are continually emerging.
You are not your final result.
The Class of 2022 is currently in limbo during these current weeks. Exams are over. Phew! The guilt of not studying is no longer lingering in the background. Yet results are not out and that means, for many, uncertainty about course choice remains. Even if early offers are all sorted lots of students are still waiting for the December round to see what doors their ATAR opens. Feel good about what you did now, before the results come out. If you felt you could have worked harder, then take that with you for the next challenge and rectify what you could have done differently. If you felt you gave the HSC your best shot, then feel proud of that, regardless of what your ATAR is. Never forget the sole purpose of the ATAR is only to get you access to a course. The higher your ATAR, the more courses you have access to. It is that simple. It is never a measure of intelligence, future success, career-joy or happiness in life. One of the smartest people I know got an ATAR of 56. Equally I know those who got over 99+ with no more chance of career enjoyment, just a longer line of doors open to them.
On a personal note I have loved working with the Class of 2022. I look forward to hearing about their careers, their ideas and new ventures as they leave our school grounds, but remain part of our school foundations.