A Letter to Year 11.

Your subjects are picked, you’re [almost] at the top and you’re probably a little contemplative about what the future will hold. You’re hearing everyday that ‘if you’re not completing three hours of study a night you won’t pass year 12’ or ‘if you have a job in year 12 you won’t have a social life’ or even ‘year 12 will result in you becoming a hermit where your life is school and study.’

I’m here to confirm that you have been boldly mislead. Year 12 will only be as horrible as you allow it to be. This year does not need to be a crisis.

Before you read on, I feel as though there needs to be a disclaimer about myself so you can understand the backdrop my year was set against. I study 2x Histories, an English and a Science, I work 11 hours a week (and have only had four days off since the academic year began in February), I coached sport four hours a week for seven months and I write for a magazine twice weekly. This year, admittedly, has been very busy. However, I’ve exceeded my expectations and remained on top of life and done well in my studies.

Often, I attribute this to being a grounded person who needs a routine in order to function or, at least, a basic plan that I can work off to ensure I’m not overcome with work, school or writing. I have been asked by friends, family and teachers how I’ve managed to stay sane this year. I don’t have an answer because I did not need to change the study habits I have used since Middle School. This is not to say that I am exempt from disappointment and reaching a breaking point.

There were periods this year where, like everyone, I cracked and wanted it to all be over. There was a point where I was in tears outside the staff room where the Year 12 Coordinator, the Head of Senior School, the Principal and the Deputy were in passing and I looked (and felt) like death. It happens to everyone, and it will happen to you…. But, hopefully you pick a more discreet spot to cry and don’t end up looking like a deranged horror movie extra in front of Mr McCarthy, Mr Wilcock or Ms Dimitropoulos. 

Disappointment is a term you need to define yourself. For me, anything below a B+ was disappointing because that is the standard I set for myself. That is not to say that it is bad, a B is not a bad grade! But for myself, I knew I could achieve A’s so I set that to be what was satisfactory and I knew going into year 12 that, from the subjects I had chosen, I could achieve this. Yet, it always looks easier from the outside looking in. Which leads me to my first point.

The word ‘persistence’ is one of the most overused terms in the Senior School yet is perhaps the most applicable to your senior year. Set a big, overarching goal that you can constantly look towards as a beacon of hope at the end of a draining year. However, this will take time and might even require someone else to validate your thoughts. Take the Big Bang, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. In early 2016, gravitational waves were discovered for the first time, yet, prior to this, gravity had only been a theory shared between scientists. It took over 60 years after Einstein’s death to technically validate what he had hypothesised to be correct. Persistence and a little external validation certainly helped lament the cause! (And, also, not a bad sentence for a girl who’s never studied Physics).

However, you need short term goals to get you towards the bigger picture. These can be as minuscule as handing up a formative essay by the end of the week, completing an assignment in a double study lesson or even actively participating in house sport. These are the stepping stones in ensuring that your big goal is attainable. In only having one large goal, it limits your self awareness as it is only achievable at the end of the year. In the 1960s, JFK held small goals during the Civil Rights Movement in order to achieve a big change for the United States. It culminated in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, yet this only occurred through a year of groundwork and short term action. Possibly, your goal is a certain ATAR or being accepted into a particular university course. Medicine, Law and Physiotherapy come to mind in terms of scarily high entrance ranks. There are ways to overcome this fear. Enter second point.

Think outside the square. Hold a different outlook. If your aspirations are to be a lawyer and you’re worried about your ATAR, it is not the be all and end all of your dreams. At 17, every small hurdle feels like the end of the world. It’s not. There are other ways to gain entrance to uni. Stat tests, UNI tests and even (but don’t rely on) bonus points. You might be scaled up in your subjects or even achieve a merit in one, there are more ways into university than the one commonplace admissions rank. Try and remember that.

In terms of not letting your ATAR define you, this is hard. It is true that, in year 12, a competitive streak comes out in people that you’ve never seen. At academic assemblies, there are students who will make lists of people who have dropped off from receiving awards and who will calculate predicted ATAR’s of their competition. You need to focus on the now and back yourself. [Try] block out the competition. There’s no other way about it. The ATAR is, undoubtedly, the biggest aspect of year 12 in terms of academic motivation and focus but it cannot be everything. Try to remember that. There are people who will help you understand this. Point three.

You see them everyday in your lessons, assemblies and homeroom. Teachers are here for you. Everyone is backing you, nobody wants you to fail. I believe we are fortunate enough to be in a school filled with camaraderie, support and acceptance where every teacher is there for you even when they are not your lesson teacher. Cry to them, chat to them, bounce ideas off of them. It will make you feel so much better than if you had left it unsaid. Get a second opinion if you’re not satisfied of what you’ve heard. If you receive a grade that you don’t agree with, find another teacher who specialises in the same subject. If you have an essay worth 30% of your grade (and if you chose Ancient Studies or Modern History, you will) seek feedback from an array of teachers. Often, you’ll end up chatting for an hour and have gained a broader understanding of your topic. Most importantly, have fun with them! They are people too, sometimes it takes year 12 to really get to know them. They’re not the only people who are here for you in your final year. Next point.

Likemindedness, praise and empathy are the qualities you should seek in friends. After five years together it should be easy. I was lucky, and it was easy to find who I would be spending senior year with. There are only six of us, we’re not a large group of 15, but six is all we need. Friends are one of the most important aspects of year 12 and, while you care insanely for each other, there will be moments for everyone where there’s a bump in the road. It is how you overcome this bump that makes a friendship what it is. Constructive and communicative resolutions are the best and it makes you appreciate each other more. Try and ignore the drama but the inevitable always happens and you become involved, but, it’s how you handle the issue that defines your commitment to each other.

With these friends, go out. Not every night or even every weekend but take a break from school. Look after yourself through seeing a life outside the classroom. Go for a walk or watch the football, put down the textbooks and live. You will have a social life just don’t let your life become all social and no school. Year 12 is a highly independent year, yet, you need to have these people with you in order to thrive and flourish. Sometimes, you will compete against your best friends subconsciously but, if anything, this is positive as it gives you extra motivation. Try and find a positive spin for everything. It’s not easy but it makes life a lot easier.

If I am to offer you one final piece of advice it is to have fun and completely immerse yourself in college life. Go to Dinner Dance, perform on Athon Day, enjoy the dancing on Thursday mornings. Because perhaps you’ll only have four weeks left and realise that you’re not quite ready to leave yet, and you won’t have a choice. Don’t wish your time away. You have your entire life to be a pharmacist, an accountant or a journalist. You only have one year to be a year 12.

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Sometimes, you only need five decent people to make a year hyped up to be horrible incredibly memorable and enjoyable. 

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