"You are not defined by a number." I taught the Class of 2021. This is what I want them to know.

Class of 2021,

Some of you will be feeling elated about your marks. Some of you will be feeling disappointed. And some of you will just be glad that it’s all over.

And all of those feelings are completely valid.

But in the end, regardless of the number you received, I can say with full confidence that you are the most accomplished Year 12 graduates to date.


You have overcome what previous Year 12 students would consider the unimaginable: two years of disrupted education, months away from your friends, and countless end-of-school traditions all taken from you. 

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After a pretty rocky start to the HSC course at the end of last year, I started off the year with my own Year 12 class with a new sense of hope. 

It was all over. We were back in the classroom and finally all together, ready to tackle the HSC. And after everything we’d been through – both teachers and students – that’s all that really mattered in the end. 

At that point, we couldn’t have anticipated that so soon after we had gotten it all back, we would quickly lose it again. 

We were back at home and instead of bonding the way a Year 12 class should with their teacher, we were forced to communicate via screens.

But not once did you guys fumble. Instead, you just side-stepped graciously, ready for another round – this time, what seemed to be an endless round – of lessons posted on Google Classroom and class discussions held over Zoom. 

Even when I – a fully fledged adult – struggled through it, unsure of whether I was really cut out for this new world of education, you kept going. And you continued to keep me and every other teacher going.


You began to look at us for answers we didn’t have: 'Are we going to have trial exams?' 'What about the HSC exams? 'Will we even get to graduate?'

When we responded with a hopeless, 'I don’t know,' you did not once utter a word of annoyance towards us and instead reassured us that it was okay. When we felt like a failure for not being able to guide you in the way that we wanted, not once did your trust in us falter.  

In staff meetings, we continued to anxiously stress about the uncertainty of it all. When we weren’t worrying about your wellbeing, we were worried about the impact this all had on your HSC mark and your future plans.

But when we finished up those meetings and joined those Zoom calls, you were the ones that were there to crack the jokes we all desperately needed to hear at that point. 

Image: Supplied. 

Already, even before the trial exams, you had shown more tenacity and resilience than I had ever seen in any previous Year 12 cohorts. 

Fast forward, and we got word that trials were cancelled. At some schools, the exams were scrapped altogether. 

For those students, you went into your HSC examinations with no test run, and ultimately, with no idea how to sit through a three-hour exam that demanded you write multiple essays.


Other students completed the trial exams online. This was something most teachers felt was the impossible. Yet, you did it. 

And when you begin to doubt what an achievement that is, remember that the trial exams exist for a reason – they give you a chance to get yourself ready for the real deal. 

So when you sat those exams in December, you did it without the proper preparation every other year group before you had. And that is something to be proud of.

Socially, you lost a lot too and for that, I’m sorry.

For years, you watched Year 12 classes before you celebrate their final year with exciting traditions, surrounded by their friends, families and teachers.

Some of you managed to sneak some of those traditions in but for most of you, you missed out. Graduations were moved from the school hall to individual classrooms, streamed on a projector away from the rest of the school.

But even in these moments, you showed such grace and humility when you realised that this was much bigger than you – even when you felt like it was not. 

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COVID-19 took a lot from you. But during this time, you gained so much.

Resilience, compassion, grace, tenacity, and strength.

And these are the things that make up the best kind of people. Not marks or accolades or achievements.

To my Year 12 class, the one that I taught from the very beginning of Year 11 all the way up to the trials, you have no idea how unbelievably proud I am of you. I have so much gratitude for you, and watching you grow and strengthen this year was an absolute honour. 

To the rest of Year 12, whether you got the ATAR you wanted or not, remember that you are worthy and have proven yourself time and time again as you persisted in the last year.

Finally, remember you are not defined by a number. You will get where you need to be, I promise.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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