Navigating VCE at this trying time
This week we marked the Shloshim for those murdered in the Hamas atrocities of October 7. It has been such a trying month for all in our community.
From the shock and disbelief at the scale and depravity of the terrorist attacks, the deep-seated worry for the hostages, the global surge in antisemitic rhetoric and the devastation wreaked in the ensuing war, these 30 days have undermined our collective sense of wellbeing.
Amidst all of this, Shichvat Aviv, the Class of 2023, have been stoically preparing for and sitting their VCE examinations. They have had a particularly challenging end to their year. They responded with enormous maturity to the modification of what should have been their Celebration Day in acknowledgement of the end of their formal classes. When I explained that it would be inappropriate to conduct an overt celebration in the Shiva week, they were accepting, empathetic and immediately saw the bigger picture.
Then, despite the huge emotional upheaval, they have set about applying themselves to their SWOTVAC period. They have been regularly visiting school to meet with their teachers, they have done all of their practice exams and have pushed through the trauma to focus on their studies.
While what the students are experiencing is unprecedented, it has taken me back to my own VCE experience. When I was in Year 12, deep in final preparations for the VCE English exam, the Jewish world was rocked by the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. This occurred on November 4 1995 and I recall that his funeral was then telecast on November 6. I remember the sense of grief that overcame the Jewish community and the feeling that nothing would be the same again.
The next morning I attended school to sit my first exam. In Year 12, I did not attend a Jewish school, and I felt that what my Jewish peers and I were going through was impacting in a profoundly personal way which was not well understood by the other students or staff. It occurs to me that the comfort in the sense of community that is being offered to Shichvat Aviv, is something that I would have benefited from in 1995.
Over the past weeks I have attended the briefing for our students before each of the VCE exams to offer some words of encouragement and support. I have found our students to be positive and purposeful, primed to achieve their best.
Whatever the outcomes of the exam period and the individual successes and disappointments that will inevitably come, our school community should feel proud of who this group of students have become. They are a wonderful collective of individuals whose positive impact on our school has been profound. While the world that we will send them out into as KDS alumni is not the same as it was a month ago, we can feel confident that they have the values and heart to make a positive difference.