2020 College Dux - speech

​The following message was given by Hannah Bothe, Class of 2020 College Dux, at the Opening Service. Vlc 2021 Opening Service 168

Good morning everyone,

It’s an honour to be invited back here to speak to you all. It feels quite surreal giving this speech that I’ve watched so many students give before me while I was a student like all of you. Although COVID-19 changed my experience of year 12, I still agree with graduates from past years that year 12 really is one to remember. I actually feel quite passionately about how I went about my VCE years, so I hope I can offer some advice to you guys, for this year, or the years ahead.

I approached year 12 in a very laidback and relaxed manner, which is probably strange to hear. But this approach only came after a not so pleasant year 11 experience. At the end of year 11, I’d pretty much burnt out. At times, I’d get so overwhelmed and anxious I almost felt lightheaded. Just after the year 11 exams, I had to take a few days off school as I had become so run down. Although I survived through to the end of the year, this experience made me a bit nervous approaching the year ahead of me. I ended up deciding to make some very big changes in how I would go about Year 12.

I decided to prioritise my mental health over top marks. I had no idea that in doing so, I would find it easier to focus, have confidence, feel accomplished and feel on top of my work. I think that lots of people think that to get high scores, you need to study every night for many hours and get barely any breaks. However, I found that if I studied when I had the energy and motivation to do so, I’d only need to do this a few times a week and very rarely after school as I’d often feel too tired. To study and learn this way, it was important for me to be interested in the content enough for my brain to make sense of the information and retain it. There’s no point trying to force information in, as this approach isn’t sustainable. Some days at school I’d be in class knowing and accepting that I wasn’t at my best, but that was okay. Sometimes you just feel off for a day or week, and the best thing to do when this happens is to not try to tackle it, but instead accept it, rest and put in small amounts of really quality study when you feel up to it. I think students often think they’re not smart enough to understand the work, when really they may just not be in a position mentally to take in what they’re learning. You need to be kind to yourself and figure out what works. The weekends were usually catch-up time for me if I needed it, but I also found that when there weren’t many SACs going on, I found the time to go out with friends quite often throughout the year and took lots of time out.

I changed my mind a lot throughout school about what I wanted to do when I grew up. But even during VCE, I changed my subjects and plans around a lot. I dropped out of three VCE subjects, two in year 10 which were early starts, and one at the end of year 11. I also changed my plans to repeat a subject that I thought I could get a better study score in. I ended up only completing 5 scored subjects by the end of year 12, all of which scaled down. That’s why a lot of people would be shocked by my ATAR! However, I know that if I had any other mix of subjects I wouldn’t have done nearly as well. I played to my strengths and did subjects I was interested in. Knowing how easily I had got run down in year 11, I knew that doing 5 subjects, even if they scale down, would be better than doing 6 subjects that scale up as I knew this would help me maintain my mental health. Basically, my VCE wasn’t completely smooth sailing, for me it was very trial and error. Looking back, I’m actually really proud of myself for figuring out what worked for me and making sure it happened.

One last piece of advice is to make the most of your teachers; not only do they know all of the information inside and out, but they’re your biggest supporters and want you to do well, just as much as you do. On that note, I would like to thank all of my teachers over my past 6 years of schooling. Thank you for helping us grow and learn so that we can be our best as we make our own mark on the world. I appreciate the extra effort that so many of you have gone to to help me achieve what I have. I’m so grateful that I was trusted and given the opportunity to make my own decisions throughout year 11 and 12, and that many of my teachers here taught me some key life skills that helped me realise and reach my potential.

A final note for the students here - I hope that each and every one of you can trust in yourself and stay open to improvement. Don’t ever label yourself as not smart, as you never know what you may be able to achieve. Most importantly, prioritise your own wellbeing, as it has the potential to improve your abilities at school but also allows you to be the best version of yourself for others. I’m very excited to start my next adventure at uni this year, but I’m also sad to be leaving such a familiar and comforting place for me. Victory has set me up wonderfully for my years ahead, and I hope you can take all of the opportunities Victory has to offer and make the most of being a part of this incredible community.

Thank you.

Hannah Bothe
College Dux, Class of 2020