When ATAR is your Everest

We’re a couple of weeks from this year’s ATAR results being released. This New Year’s Eve teenagers will be drinking the night away but they won’t know until that day if it’s celebratory or in commiseration of a year ‘wasted’.


School systems use ATAR and similar processes because corporal punishment and physical torture are no longer legal. Students put themselves through this because anxiety and self-loathing are hip (but, ironically, the term ‘hip’ isn’t).


Realistically, education departments implement these pathways because they are deemed effective and no one can come up with an alternative that appeases all parties. Meanwhile, students enrol in it because it is the quickest and most obvious way into tertiary education.


It’s hard. Year 12 is full of distractions. Imagine trying to produce your best analytical writing while dealing with the ball, graduation, leavers, work, sporting commitments, hormones, social engagements and family issues. Regardless, every year a great number of students struggle through these courses.


I don’t hide my failures. I underperformed in my TEE exams and couldn’t get into the course I wanted. When I first said I wanted to be an English teacher neither my parents nor the staff where I attended school were very supportive. I was laughed at. When my TEE results came through it would have been easy to throw in the towel and move into a career that didn’t require tertiary education.


But… I am not a number. I am not a statistic.


The best part of this time of year is the number of positive stories about people not letting their results define them. My favourite of these is the spoken word poem by Suli Breaks.


He also has this one.


Common to these stories are people, like me, who didn’t get the score they wanted or needed. That’s not to say all of them are. I recently came across this story about a Victorian student who doesn’t know her result and doesn’t want to know because the actual numbers mean nothing to her.


Here’s what I think.


Whatever you decide to do with your life, whatever you want to be, will be determined more by your attitude than anything else. I’m going to be a cowboy with my idioms here but when life gives you lemons it’s because life is a bitch. The easiest thing you can ever do is make friends with could have and but.


I could have been anything but [insert excuse].


If you are born into a first world country you are already ahead of the curve. An income of $32,400 USD puts you in the top 1% of wage earners worldwide. That’s not the 1% that “Occupy Wall Street” focussed on but it certainly puts things into perspective. So many of our issues can be overcome if we approach them with the right attitude.


I’m not selling The Secret but I’m a firm believer of these statements:

  • Positivity breeds positivity
  • Fake it ’til you make it
  • Confidence conquers all


If you don’t get the exam results you need for the course you want you have two choices. You can bury your head in the sand, blame external factors and (later) reminisce about what could have been OR you can research your options and knuckle down.


If you get the exam results you need for the course you want, congratulations – don’t let it get to your head.


What I want:

I want people to seek knowledge because it is good for their brain. The question, “are we getting marks for this?” is one of my most hated utterances. Imagine if every action was dependent on getting some form of reward. Oh, you’ve had an accident and need me to call an ambulance. Why should I? What’s in it for me?

I want people to be humble in victory and determined in defeat.

I want to make a difference. It’s why I teach. If I improve just one life I will consider myself a success. If we all made an effort to improve a life (not our own nor an immediate family member or friend where we may reap the benefits) then the world would be a better place. In writing this, and spreading a similar message in my classrooms, I might improve the resilience of a student who will overcome failure to change the world. I might have already done this, only time will tell. For now, I’ll keep doing what I do.



2 thoughts on “When ATAR is your Everest

  1. Hi! I’ve been reading your website for a while now and finally got
    the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!


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