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2020 lessons and how to use them in 2021

Friday 15th, January 2021

Subahaa Maheswaran

To say 2020 was a difficult year, would be understatement. We have all been impacted in some way by the events that occurred last year. Many people are suggesting that we should try to forget about 2020 and pretend that it never happened. However, I believe (and I’m sure many others do as well) that 2020 should not be discarded so easily. Instead, we should take the many lessons we have likely learnt about ourselves and the broader world from 2020 into our schooling, academia and overall lives going into 2021.

Lesson 1: You are more resilient than you think

Before a global pandemic was thrust upon us, you may have had a preconceived belief about how much you and your peers could tolerate in a given situation. For example, I previously believed just being able to survive year 12 was the peak of any person’s tolerance level – if I only knew the true hardship last year’s year 12s would have to endure.

Last year, we all had to face not just a few things not going our way occasionally, but multiple things not going our way on a regular basis (some of these things we previously wouldn’t have even thought possible). Yet, instead of complaining, we put our head downs, adapted to this unprecedented situation and did the best we could. If that isn’t the epitome of resilience at its finest, I don’t know what is.

If you’re capable of surviving a school year during a pandemic, where you were constantly jumping from online classes to classes in-person, were constantly in fear of having your high school closed due to someone potentially testing positive for COVID-19, and more, 2021 and the rest of your high school life should be a breeze in comparison.

So, if you ever get a grade for an assessment or exam that you’re not too happy with or are feeling overwhelmed by the study workload this year, just remember – you lived through a once in a life-time global pandemic last year.

Lesson 2: You are capable of being autonomous and self-motivated

For many of us, it is the environment and the people we surround ourselves with that provides us the incentive to study hard and complete work on time. Seeing other people doing work sends a message to our brain subconsciously that maybe we should be doing work as well.

However, when we were forced to attend school online, this external factor that was fuelling our motivation to be engaged in class and to get our work done was stripped from us. We were now isolated at home, only able to see our teachers and peers through a computer screen. Thus, we were essentially forced to have to rely on ourselves to have the will to attend class, meet deadlines, study for assessments, and more.

More than likely, even the most studious people faced some level of difficulty in maintaining their engagement with their schooling. At times, you may have even thought about skipping classes or purposely putting off doing work due in a few days. However, more than not, we pushed past our procrastination tendencies through developing our own sense of autonomy and self-motivation. We realised that when it comes down to it, the only person holding us back is ourselves.

If you’re looking to having an edge over other students this school year, consider taking the autonomy and self-motivation you cultivated in 2020 and applying it in your 2021 school life. E.g. in 2020, you may have had to learn to keep track of dates for assessments or homework assignments due to no longer having your teacher or peers constantly reminding you. Continue to do this in 2021 – knowing when stuff is due will allow you to plan ahead and be smarter with your time management.

Lesson 3: The importance of social connection

Being forced to study online and stay at home for many months made us all miss the social connection we had previously taken for granted. Attending class online just isn’t the same as in-person interaction with your peers or hanging out with your friends during lunch break. Despite having technology and the ability to still talk to people online, 2020 left many of us more isolated than ever before.

That’s why going into 2021, make sure to take advantage of any opportunities to either build your existing social connections and/or create new social connections with people. Now that you understand how easily it can be taken away from you, there really should be no excuse for you to at least try.

It can be as simple as just getting more involved in extracurricular activities, trying to talk to your other classmates more (people you don’t usually hang out with), organising more time to spend with your friends, etc.

Grades and doing well in school is important, but so is staying socially connected with the people you see the most, every day (people at school).

Lesson 4: Technology and social media are here for the long haul

Many people had to transition to attending school, university and work online and such a transition proved to be very successful for many. Thus, the prevalence of working from home is only going to increase in the future. Further, having the expectation that you may end up pursuing a career which may require you to work from home and use technology and social media is a very real expectation to have.

Technology and social media may also begin to be implemented more in your schooling – e.g. the gradual decrease of physical writing in favour of typing, exams being conducted online and more.

With all this in mind, going into 2021, set your sights on improving your digital literacy and knowledge of the resources available to you online to help you with your studies (such as the ATAR Notes website!) or future career.


Of course, there are many other lessons we have all likely learnt as a collective as well as more personal lessons you have learnt from 2020. Take all these lessons with you when the new school year starts and make 2021 a way better year.

Subahaa Maheswaran, VCE 2019

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