By Simone Boland, Head of VCE at Strathcona Girls Grammar
As I write this, thousands of students across the state are putting their pens to paper for their VCE exams, which is often characterised as the culmination of their 13-plus years of schooling. During this period, educators are relegated to the sidelines, often having to take on the role of counselling students and families through the nerve-racking period.
There’s no denying that VCE exams are an extremely stressful period for students, parents and educators alike – and it’s completely normal. At Strathcona Girls Grammar, we understand that academics are important, which is why we strive to prepare our students as best as we can, equipping them with the right knowledge, teachers, resources and support to help them gain entry into the pathway of their choice.
But despite how critical this period can be, it’s our duty as educators to ensure that students are also looking beyond the stress of exams. That’s because we know students cannot simply be reduced to a neat little number. Whether it’s the number on your ATAR rank, or even the numbers in your bank account, success is not just a number and it’s this philosophy that we try to instil within our community throughout the year.
Above all else, our hope is that our students leave Strathcona Girls Grammar with a sound understanding of who they are as a person and are healthy in mind, body and spirit. As educators we ask ourselves if our students know what their passions are and if they have the know-how to pursue them. Have they forged respectful lifelong friendships? Are they attuned to their own feelings and sense of self? Are they equipped to face the world as it is today and to face the shifting sands of the future?
For students and anxious parents, keeping perspective can be difficult in this demanding time, so it’s up to educators to show them the big picture. My advice for many students and parents during the exam period is to simply take a deep breath and think about the personal successes of the individual student outside of their academic record. Borrowing the words of Winnie the Pooh (or A. A. Milne rather): ‘You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think and loved more than you know.’ It’s important during this period to recognise how students serve their community, their personal strength of character, or even how they enrich the lives of their friends and family.
The exam experience is crucial as it gives students an opportunity to develop skills that will serve them later in life, skills such as perseverance, discipline, time management, critical thinking, and resilience. But it’s important that students know their ATAR rank doesn’t reflect who they are as a person, whatever the outcome may be. For many, VCE is simply a stepping stone into the next chapter.
And that next chapter looks different for everyone. Many students are striving for tertiary study, others are looking forward to exploring the world, some can’t wait to get straight into the workforce, and there are those that don’t quite know what their next step looks like – and that’s okay too.
We as a school are extremely proud of our students’ strong academic results and are delighted by their achievements from across a diversity of academic disciplines. However, what we’re most proud of is our students’ strength of character, something we’re sure will take them very far as they enter life outside of the exam hall.
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