An open letter to year 12 students

Dear Year 12 student,

I am sorry this COVID-19 crisis has struck at a very significant time for you.

Right now, it looks like you will miss several weeks of your final year at school. And unfortunately, we don’t know a lot about what will happen next.

However, now’s not the time to go down a rabbit-hole of stress and worry, because “worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength”. Thank you Corrie ten Boom.

Instead, I want you to zero in on how this crisis also presents a very unique opportunity for you.

Yes, you will experience a shorter time in terms of actual school contact hours. But what this does mean is you will probably miss the months when many students in Year 12 tend to struggle the most.

You see, Year 12 is a marathon, not a sprint. Nobody can run flat out the entire race.

Having worked with high school students for over two decades, my experience has been that a large percentage of  Year 12’s experience a three-month period where they struggle with cynicism, become jaded and just want it to be over.

This sluggish phase usually occurs between the months of  July to September. During this time, every Year 12 Coordinator I encounter will tell me the kids students seem “a little flat”.

This is the time where your momentum crashes and you struggle for motivation. I know you think this would never happen to you but I have seen it happen to the very best of students.

But thanks to COVID-19, you will miss this common slump and by the time schools reopen after this period of online learning, you will be more motivated than ever and ready to devour as much as you can in your last season in the school classroom as you prepare for your final exams.

So that is some good news to give you hope.

As we progress through this crisis, here’s my advice to you:

Do not worry about what will happen next in terms of lockdowns or official announcements. Instead, think more about what your next step should be on a personal level.

Take this time to reboot, create a new habit, enhance your productivity or increase your capacity. Focus on what you can do in this moment.

This crisis will end. Those of us who have focussed on what we can do in each present moment to prepare ourselves will come out stronger.

Even though you are facing your final and probably toughest year at school, you need to make the most of the current state of the world and reframe this crisis as an opportunity for exponential personal growth.

This is your time to become a better learner and a world-class student. But this must be a choice you make.

“To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility.” ―Patrick Ness

This saying applies to all students, regardless of world events:

The most important thing you will take out of year twelve is not your final mark. The most important thing is the character you develop.

Developing your inner game is far more important than your final result.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, focus on developing these three areas of inner game, then watch these weeks of isolation turn into a time of rapid growth and development.

Here’s what I recommend you do:

1. Develop personal leadership

This is the number one skill you need to concentrate on. Every fibre of your being must be directed towards becoming a self-directed learner.

This character trait is fundamental to future success and there has never been a better time to develop this capacity.

To make this work for your benefit, you are going to have to hop into the driver’s seat of your life. Now is the time to take the wheel and guide your life in the direction you want to go. As cliché as it sounds, this statement has never been more true:

“If it is going to be, it is up to me.”

2. Build your inner muscle

You have psychological, emotional and spiritual muscles that you have never used, mostly because you haven’t needed to.

There is an African proverb which says, “Smooth seas do not make good sailors”.

Growth happens at the point of tension. If you ever find yourself in a gym, on what rep do you think your muscle would grow the most? Would it be the first rep or the tenth rep?

The answer is actually the eleventh rep, the one you don’t fully complete because you are too tired.

When you reach the point of failure and complete fatigue, that is the point of maximum growth.

So lean into the struggle. During this time, you are going to find access to an abundance of power that you never knew you had.

At the end of this crisis, you will realise you are more resilient than you thought, you have more capacity than you knew and you are stronger than you ever imagined.

3. Choose courage

The sense of uncertainty has been increasing for everyone and the sad truth is that as humans, we’re innately uncomfortable with volatile, ambiguous or complex conditions.

However, while many things are out of our control, we can control our own response to this crisis. As researcher Brené Brown says in her best-selling publications, “choose courage over comfort”.

Make the choice today to stay strong and push through these uncertain times with the right attitude. Stay focused, stay strong and look at what you can achieve, not what you can’t.

My final thought is from one of the world’s leaders in biology and biodiversity. Edward Wilson said, “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it and make important choices wisely”.

I sincerely wish you the very best for the rest of this year. Remember, you are not the first to face challenges and you are by no means the last. Choose your response, build your inner muscles and put yourself in the driver’s seat and you’ll look back on your final year at school with pride.

Now go and listen to Rise Up by Andra Day and solidify this message of hope.

Glen Gerreyn

PS Do you need to talk? Reach out to me at

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