Year 12 – Advice before you start

Year 12 can be daunting. It can be exciting. Scary, fun, tiring, overwhelming, rewarding, disappointing, challenging, easy. It is all of these things, but ultimately you are the one that makes it what you want it to be.

I have been teaching Year 12 students for a very long time. They all start the year with positive energy, embracing what this final year of schooling will bring. I often hear:

“I’m going to work so hard this year”

“I’m going to focus harder than ever”

“I’m going to avoid distractions”

“I’m going to complete all my homework on time”

“I’m going to read all the texts, plus some”

“I’m going to write 10 practice essays per area of study”

And to be fair, that’s what the original intention is until you realise that you are studying for other subjects simultaneously and there are SACs around the corner, and let’s not forget all of those social events and turning 18. That’s the reality, so in order to make sure that you don’t get overwhelmed I have some tips that previous students have provided me to share with you to help you get through your final year of secondary education.

  1. Work/life balance. A successful Year 12 student has a balance and does not commit all their spare time to school. It is important to have a part-time job but also important to communicate with your employer when the workload at school is overwhelming. Go out, socialise with friends, but also make sure that you achieve the goals you set for school work and study.
  2. Sleep. It is not overrated! It is vital for success. Do not pull all-nighters as it will impact your ability to function the following day.
  3. Organisation. Buy a diary/planner/organisation app that helps you organise your time and prioritise your schedule. Figuring out when SAC dates are and adding them to your calendar as reminders in your phone. Organise your notes according to subject and area of study.
  4. Read the texts! You can’t fake it. If you want a good study score you need to read the texts as least twice.
  5. Use your teacher. They want to help you. It is their job to help you. Listen to them. They know what they’re talking about.
  6. Write plans. You can’t just write an essay from the top of your head if you haven’t planned it. The more you plan the less thinking time you’ll take up during the SACs and exam because you’ve already come up with ideas to various prompts.
  7. Break up practice writing. Don’t write full essays until you’ve mastered the smaller parts. Write an introduction, or write body paragraphs. Get feedback from your teacher and then fix the areas that need work. Once you’ve got it, then work your way up to full essays.
  8. Write essays unseen in timed conditions (handwritten). This is usually done just prior to SACs and in preparation for the exam. Get these essays marked by your teacher.
  9. Don’t take constructive feedback personally. Teachers tell you what you need to improve on because they want to see you do better, not because they hate you. Some teachers focus on areas of improvement rather than the good stuff – if you’re not including something and they’re telling you to include it, then listen to them.
  10. Form study groups with other students. It’s amazing what you can learn from your peers and the ideas that come from discussion. Work together, not against each other.
  11. And finally, never, ever memorise an essay. Engage with the prompt. Examiners and your teachers can see a memorised essay a mile away. They know it. Don’t test them. Not worth the risk.

As a teacher, my advice is to keep it real. When you are feeling overwhelmed take some time out. Talk to your teacher. Believe it or not, they are human too and understand. They are not your enemy. They’re on your side as long as you work with them, not against them. Your biggest mistake is to make your teacher your enemy. If they see that you want to do well, they will do anything they can to help you achieve your goals, but if you make their life difficult and don’t do the work and then expect them to drop everything to help you catch up on 6 weeks worth of work the day before the SAC, you’re dreaming.

You are ultimately responsible for your own learning and your future. Your school and your teachers are there to guide you and encourage you. One of my favourite films that I ever taught was Clint Eastwood’s ‘Invictus’. The film is about Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his presidency in South Africa and his desire to unite his divided nation through rugby and the world cup. William Henley’s poem is quoted a number of times in the film and it is the final line that you should take with you as you take on the challenges of year 12: ‘I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul’. Good luck and keep tuned for some advice on how to tackle upcoming SACs this year.

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