Speech: 2018 Dux Jonathan Zuk

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Isn’t hindsight such a wonderful thing. The best choices suddenly become clear, though it’s a shame that these insights come too late to change anything. We all know that we should learn from our past mistakes and experiences, but how much better would it be if we could avoid making mistakes in the first place, learn our life lessons without regretting our errors of judgement, have some expendable guinea pig to test the outcomes of our naïve decisions and identify the potential issues and benefits.

 

Unfortunately for me, no one can advise me now on how to make the best of my high school years, at least not without violating the laws of physics. But if they could, this is what I hope they’d tell me.

Junior school is the time to keep an open mind and approach everything with a positive attitude. If you genuinely apply yourself to each and every subject, who knows what hidden talents you may uncover, or what passions you may unearth. There’s no need to limit yourself now and risk becoming one-dimensional. Having recently wandered the vast hallways of great Italian galleries, awestruck by the ornate detail and striking aesthetics of the masterpieces, I’ve come to regret my perfunctory approach to art classes and am terribly annoyed that I threw away the opportunity to hold an even deeper respect for these works through an improved understanding of the techniques and theory of art. The attitude that they were a slight waste of 75 minutes a week became a self-fulfilling prophecy, only I was the one wasting my own time. This school provides an excellent supportive and accepting environment, so there’s really no excuse for being afraid of throwing yourself whole-heartedly into every activity.

Middle school is the time to get ahead. VCE will start sooner than you think, and everything that you learn now is something that you don’t have to learn later. Now is the time to pursue your interests in greater depth with an eye towards choosing your VCE subjects and post-secondary path. However, maintain a broad mindset. Your interests may change as you delve deeper into more advanced concepts, and a wider education will help to make you a well-rounded person. Especially don’t neglect English as you have to do this through Year 12, and as well as being a significant contributor to your ATAR, it is a pre-requisite for many courses. I don’t think I’ve said “don’t neglect English” enough so – don’t neglect English. Fortunately, the elective system allows you to focus on the aspects of each subject that you most enjoy. Choose what interests you the most, not what your friends are doing, as this will make you happier in the long run. Furthermore, a class without your usual friends is also an opportunity to make new ones.

There’s no denying that the VCE years require hard work and dedication. This is much easier if you’re doing subjects that you enjoy. Although it may not feel like it at times, you will survive. My presence, and that of everyone else beside me, is testament to that. I found that the key is to start early, as ultimately the more work you do in year 11 and the first part of year 12, the less you’ll have to do around exam time. There exists a point where if you haven’t done enough work throughout the year, you’ll be scared into working hard – those in the younger year levels may notice the VCE study area becoming unusually hushed late in term 3.  It really is best to avoid this situation, as a calmer state will go a long way towards optimising your performance on exams. To this end also, make good use of your teachers. They’re your best resource, extremely supportive, and I found they genuinely want to help you. Don’t be afraid of asking any questions, no matter how stupid you think they are. People often say that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but they do exist. A stupid question is one that should have been asked six months ago, so you would have understood all the concepts which are later built on that information, rather than struggling to keep up throughout the year. Still, better late than never. It also helps to aim high – very high. If you set goals which seem impossible but work towards them with intent, it’s more than likely that you’ll surprise yourself, just be prepared to forgive yourself if you don’t achieve them. Aiming to get 100% on a test then getting 80 is a better result than aiming for 80 and getting 70. Setting similar stretch goals for study scores or an ATAR also helps to give you a buffer in case things don’t go as planned.

For most of you, your work culminates in a number written on a piece of paper. And while ideally that number should be as high as possible, it only reflects a small part of you – namely your ability to perform in VCAA tests and exams on a particular day. Don’t forget that school is a great opportunity to make friends, improve your social and leadership skills, discover yourself and so much more. Those of you in Year 7 still have almost 6 years left of school. While you’re here, I encourage you to make the most of it.

 

To my teachers, thank you for your advice, support and dedication towards helping me achieve my best. And to the Year 12s... I wish you the best of luck.