Monday, January 23, 2017

It's the end of the world as we know it (And I feel fine)

In 1997, R.E.M. released a song called 'It's the end of the world as we know it'. It was released on the eve of a new century. Email was just coming into vogue, although only the most tech-savvy Australians had email addresses. Nokia was THE mobile phone brand to own - although most of us left our mobile phones switched off in the glove box as they were too heavy to slip into our pockets. Furthermore, the call rates were so exorbitant that we never made mobile phone calls unless our car had broken down or our parents were calling us to ask us where we were.

But man oh man, did we have worries back then. As the year 2000 approached, murmurings began of the Y2K bug. We were told that computer programmers had forgotten to factor in the turn of the century in their programs. On the 31st of December, 1999, when all our electronic devices clicked over to the 1st of January 2000 there was the risk that our computers would think it was actually the year 0000 and at that point they would malfunction. People had visions of bank account balances vanishing, their faithful IBM compatible home computers fizzing into oblivion and worst of all - the equipment in plane cockpits would malfunction causing planes to fall out of the sky. (If only we knew what 2001 would bring) As 1998, then 1999 ticked over - we all waited, wondering what exactly 2000 would bring. It could possibly be 'the end of the world as we know it'.

Those of us who are old enough to remember this era can look back and laugh about it now. There was so much hype, so much suspense, we were so nervous. Then it was the year 2000 - and the panic was over. We wondered what we were so worried about.

Sadly, we can have this approach toward Year 11 and 12. As students enter into the final phase of their secondary education, there can be a nagging fear both for parents and students that if things don't go well, it could be 'the end of the world as we know it'. A lower Year 12 mark could mean no hope of entering university, career options will be limited and there could be a risk of......(Insert dramatic music)....unemployment. We are so spoilt in Australia. We have access to such a huge range of government subsidized tertiary education options that we forget that tertiary education is not a mandatory step after Year 12. We feed ourselves and our kids the lie that career happiness lies in a job that requires a university degree. Yet I can introduce you to several lawyers who are not experiencing career happiness despite years of university study. Meanwhile, today I met a bunch of guys at JB Hifi who are blissfully happy in a job that only requires they have great customer service skills and can develop specific product knowledge on the job. What would you want for your teenager's future? Unhappy, stressed lawyer? or Happy, relaxed customer service provider?

We place so much emphasis on doing well in school, particularly in year 12, that we begin to believe that to not get into the chosen uni course could spell disaster. You may chuckle and shake your head and say 'no, no, it's not that extreme.' But tell me, how many of your friends have mentioned that their teenager has experienced at least one 'meltdown' due to the pressure of schoolwork in the past year. Why are so many Year 11 and 12 students on medication for anxiety and depression? This is not how it should be. We are placing too much pressure on our students to do well and we are allowing our children to put too much pressure on themselves.


  • Not all careers require that you complete Year 12 with a high mark. Not all careers require you to have even attempted Year 12.
  • A great ATAR score is the not the sole determinant of a happy future. It may get you into a highly sought after Uni course - but is that what your teenager really wants? 
  • There are several ways to get into higher education courses that are not solely based on your Year 12 results. Some tertiary institutions look at personal aptitude, skills and work experience as part of their prerequisites. 
  • Year 12 does not need to be completed before a student's 18th birthday. Perhaps they need a break for a couple of years and can return to study at a local TAFE when they feel ready to commit the time that Year 12 requires.
  • There are schools that focus on getting a student ready to enter into an apprenticeship whilst they are completing Year 11 and 12. The focus is less on academics and more on manual skills.

If I had the choice between watching my child battle with schoolwork-induced anxiety and depression versus taking a relaxed approach in Year 11 and 12, I would certainly choose the latter.

If you have a teenager in your household who needs help in lowering their stress levels and taking a more balanced approach to their school work, call me for a free chat. Louise, Exploring All Options, 0425 792 189.

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