I was looking forward to this year – 2020, the culmination of my school journey. I felt inspired by our College theme “Look to the good first” : little did I know how often I would be reminded of this in the coming year. The arrival of COVID and the subsequent lockdown resulted in online learning and adjustments for all. Students no longer had interaction with their peers, camaraderie and support were now diluted by a screen. Our teachers too were suddenly faced with unexpected demands and needed to adapt quickly.
Music lessons (bassoon) were undertaken online and there could no longer be performances. The Senior Choir recorded as a virtual choir – some of their recordings were incorporated into the St Ignatius / Father’s Day Mass which was made available online. This was viewed by many family and friends who live outside Melbourne, such as my grandparents. I loved that I could share this special day with them.
Throughout this year, I am mindful of the suffering of those affected by COVID through illness, death or those living alone. I am fortunate to be with my family and whilst at times it’s challenging, I have company, support and laughter- how difficult it would be to not have this. I try to remind myself of this whenever I think of all the missed markers of our Year 12 year – sport, debating, social gatherings, music, drama, leadership opportunities, the Masses – school, year level and House – that are such an integral and significant part of a Xavier education.
One of the things I miss greatly is Friday Night School which I have been a part of every Friday night for 4 years. Due to COVID, we (Xavier and Genazzano students) could not visit the students in Richmond whom we tutor, so the sessions went online. We did our best but this could never replace the spirit felt by being there in person.
I am so grateful to be back this term, face to face (albeit in masks!) for 3 weeks, our final weeks at school. I am so pleased to see my peers and my teachers everyday and to talk to them all.
This year, 2020, was to be a year of possibility, opportunity and community.
However, I am confident that our year, Year 12, 2020, will seek out these things in the future and in spite of our deflated Year 12, celebrate and support each other. We will continue to be, in true Ignatian form, men for others. At the end of the day, we must each “Look to the good first” and act accordingly and always, always be grateful for what we have.
Every time I wear my rugby jumper out in public, the big 20 emblazoned on the back, I seem to attract sympathetic looks wherever I go. If you had told me last year – even at the beginning of this year – that my Year 12 jumper would elicit such sympathy, I probably would have laughed at you, and yet here we are, and the class of 2020 has unanimously been deemed ‘the poor kids’.
Though perhaps previously I would have been mildly agitated by this sort of epithet, now, as we rapidly approach our final exams, it seems somewhat fitting to be known as the year level who were put through so much that words of encouragement seemed futile, and only a general feeling of sympathy was deemed appropriate.
However, I do not believe that ‘the poor kids’ is truly representative of the class of 2020. After the first lockdown, perhaps we could be deemed as such, since we lost 6 – 8 weeks of face-to-face learning, and therefore had to push back some SACs, but that was almost six months ago. Since then, not only have we faced a second lockdown, the ‘ring of steel’ around Melbourne, and a curfew, but we have also had to deal with the loss of our Year 12 milestones and the Year 12 experience entirely. So now, what to call us? As much as I personally like the ‘Zoomers’, I think it is far more fitting to refer to us as what we truly are; the survivors.
In my case, surviving this year has been aided by my family and my faith. I am fortunate enough to have a large family, and this year saw most of them returning to live at home. Whilst this has sometimes proven distracting, I could think of no better way to start my day than by seeing my baby nephew and marvelling at his latest word. Through ample family and personal prayer, it became much easier to spiritually survive this year, and grow in my connection to God, despite not being allowed to receive the Eucharist or attend Mass.
I would like to thank Frs. Brendan and Trac, the staff, readers and musicians of our Parishes for their continued work in bringing us the weekly Mass. I would also like to humbly request that as well as sympathy, you pray for me and all the survivors of the class of 2020 as we approach the grand finale to what has been undoubtedly the most challenging year of our schooling.
This has been an unexpected year to say the least, and one in which I have grieved the loss of many typical milestones; getting my licence, going to a formal, attending a valedictory dinner, many 18th parties with friends and enjoying the company of others. The biggest challenge that I faced this year has been the uncertainty regarding when life will return to normal and how this will affect my future. I have also found it hard to switch between online and on-site learning. However, every adversity brings new insights. I have seen the benefits of spending more time with my family and have become much closer to them.
I have also developed more self-confidence, away from the judgments of school life and social media. I have developed a resilience and independence that will serve me well as I start university. Like many people, I can’t wait until we have a vaccine so I can start to live a normal 18-year-old life – plan trips and holidays again. Music, nature and my faith have got me through this year, and I have a strong belief that all will be well again soon. While this has been a trying year for those of us in Year 12, I have been blessed to have a supportive family, school and faith community that I could rely on when I needed a helping hand. But I feel most for those who live alone and for whom 2020 has been an extremely difficult year.
Waverley Secondary College
COVID-19 has greatly impacted many students’ daily routines and study habits; hence it would be quite common for many to fall under such changes, affecting their motivations, health and well-being. Getting used to the ‘new normal’ was also a challenge I had to face, however I was able to accept it and fit into this lifestyle quite easily. Though, the biggest difficulties during remote learning would possibly be seeking assistance from teachers and doing SACs at home. Even though Zoom calls are live, it feels a lot more comfortable and genuine when discussing topics face-to-face rather than online and when there is no scheduled meeting and I need some assistance, it takes longer for the teacher to reply to your email – thus it becomes a complicated process for both teacher and student. Writing a SAC at home in test conditions can also be a struggle as our home is typically a place to rest or take our time doing things; so, having to do an assessment in similar conditions to when we would do one at school can feel odd.
Despite such challenges, it is merely something that we have no choice but to overcome and by handling them I gained more mental flexibility and strength. I created my own strategies to cope with hard times, such as creating distinct schedules between break and study time, exercising and taking my dog out for a walk. Attending Mass every Sunday – specifically listening to the homily – has also allowed me to further reflect and meditate on my week, gaining more awareness of issues people may be facing and understanding that drastic changes such as COVID-19 is just the unpredictability of life and therefore transient as we learn how to embrace it.