Yep, she’s bouncing into Year 12, and when I say bouncing, I mean she’s ricocheting off the walls, at times reaching stratospheric heights as she thinks of all the wonderful things awaiting her at the top of the totem pole.
“We can sign ourselves out of school during free periods! I can sleep in! I’ll be able to duck out for lunch at the shops! We can drive to the beach in the afternoon! We have a common room! WE HAVE A MICROWAVE!”
In between the teen sleeping in, signing out of school, trotting off to lunch, going to the beach and heating her soup ‘IN THE MICROWAVE!’ I idly wondered whether she planned on any schoolwork.
Perhaps there just wasn’t time for that.
You see, for my near 17-year-old, Year 12 is all about dancing on the edge of new freedoms and discovering new things. Finding new places to explore on Saturday nights, spotting new cafes for brunch, unearthing new beaches, making new friends, and no doubt, sooner or later, finding new things to drink, (the latter a conversation for a whole different column.)
Not once have I seen a flash of fear cross her face as she contemplates Year 12, her HSC year.
And that’s exactly how I like it.
I’ve listened to, reported on and written about dozens of teenagers crippled with excruciating angst over the HSC, for decades. Depression, anxiety, illness, and on more than one occasion suicide, have destroyed families, all because their children become too terrified of what they perceive to be the biggest test of their lives.
They can’t comprehend that failing this test, does not fail them in life.
Sometimes, it’s their parents who fail them – parents driven by ridiculous and irrational zealotry who push their children to impossible and unhealthy limits.
I have heard parents tut over ‘worthless’ TAFE courses offering subjects I see as valuable life skills. I have watched parents choose their child’s subjects, because they’re good at them, not because they are passionate. I witnessed with horror a parent challenging her child to get into medicine, despite her son desperately wanting to be a primary school teacher, and another pushing for law, when all her daughter wanted to do was study music and sing. Her daughter is now dead.
It’s such a damn shame when during one of their most crucial and formative years, many teenagers are stressing themselves stupid, rather than looking forward with joy to their last hurrah with their schoolmates. What should be a golden year of discovery, and dare I say, fun.
Instead, they fret over subjects, tutors, overcrowded timetables and time-consuming study plans. They deprive themselves of subjects which inspire because they won’t count towards an ATAR, and spend hours tormenting over their future while robbing themselves of precious moments in the now.
Reassurances that the HSC really only proves how good they are at sitting an exam fall on deaf ears. Trying to convince them that this one-dimensional series of tests will not define their futures is inconceivable. They can’t see that even just two years down the track the HSC will register as just a tiny blip on their radar of life.
I’m not saying the HSC is not important and I will encourage the teen to work hard and do the best she can. But I shan’t allow it to consume her. To be honest, I’m more interested on her learning to apply the discipline to do something she’d rather not, than the marks at the end. That’s a skill she’ll take through life.
Cementing friendships, overcoming social challenges, dealing with loyalty and disloyalty, heartbreak and hope are others I want her to hone over the next 12 months. They are what build self esteem, confidence and clout, they are what will determine her in the future.
All that and clearly being able to heat soup ‘IN THE MICROWAVE!’