Students leading through COVID

Newcastle's Kotara High School captains Heath Goodman and Meg Donnan reflect on how a pandemic changed their time as school leaders.

03 September 2020
A teenage boy and girl standing together looking straight at the camera
Image: COVID captains: Heath Goodman and Meg Donnan
"The past year has taught us to not dwell on the negatives, but rather focus on the positives within every day."

We are both honoured to say we are the School Captains of Kotara High 2020 – a year we will never forget. This year has been like no other, it has come with its challenges for the community, but also obstacles for Year 12 students.

Our previous experience of being part of Kotara High School’s Student Representative Council adequately prepared us for our role as captains and the expectations and responsibility that come with it. However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant many of the normal captain duties had to be manipulated. Yet with support from our principal, Mr Sneddon, and staff we have still been able to maintain a close relationship with our school and the wider community. This has been achieved through weekly, whole-school assemblies via zoom as well as our ability to interact with the community through Facebook and other media outlets.

As captains our focus this year has been on our own and the students’ school spirit and importantly their mental health. While in previous years we have observed school leaders focus on and organise whole-school events, including our annual Big Day Out, we have had to resort to online learning and zoom as a form of communicating.

Of course, it is disappointing that we will not be able to mark the end of our schooling in a traditional manner. However, we understand some restrictions are unavoidable and we are aiming to make the most out of every situation. The past year has taught us to not dwell on the negatives, but rather focus on the positives within every day. As leaders this year we have learnt to overcome complications and to build our resilience, while also coming to the important realisation that you can seek help.

There have been incredible efforts from the school executive and our year advisors to organise and plan alternate celebrations. This includes organising the filming of our parentless graduation ceremony and providing students with a USB copy. The re-imagining of this ceremony is important to allow Year 12 to come together as a cohort, acknowledging the achievements we have made as individuals and a collective throughout this year. The planning of other events to work within COVID guidelines are also progressing to celebrate and conclude our 13 years of schooling.

The incredible help from the executive, staff and most importantly our year advisors have enabled the year 12 cohort to focus on school and encourage good behaviours when completing the final year of our schooling careers. The school introduced mentoring programs that enabled students to form a closer bond to teachers and allowed a path for reflection and the ability for students to express their feelings. The individualised mentoring sessions also gave Year 12 students one on one guidance and support in areas of wellbeing, HSC study and preparation for post-schooling options.

The chance to lead our school in a year of so many challenges has been an enriching experience. We have seen how leadership is not only an important personal attribute but plays a vital role in connecting our school and the community.

Captaincy – a personal reflection

Heath

My term of captaincy has enabled growth for me as an individual, to challenge myself and attempt things normally out of my comfort zone. The experience has allowed me to experience options not normally available and encourage other students to tackle everything head on. I am excited about leaving school but nervous about going into the real world. Getting out of the routine of 9am to 3pm for the past 13 years is going to be a big adjustment to the body clock. The daunting realisation that I run my life, not teachers or my parents telling me what to do, has left me with mixed emotions.

Meg

My year as school captain has taught me a lot about myself. It has allowed me to understand my areas of growth and areas of strength. This experience has been valuable in preparing me for adult life and the challenges associated with it. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to lead throughout this difficult time and excited to use the lessons I have learnt as captain as I progress post-school.

  • Student voices
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