2021. Or 2020 repackaged. Either way, 2021 was another rollercoaster of a year with lots of ups and downs. But it was also a massive year for student voice and agency across the state.

2021, much like 2020, continued to shed light on issues that affect Victorian students. It presented many questions that no one knew the answers to, and many hurdles that were difficult to cross. Among these challenges, a couple were harder to tackle than others, such as the effects of COVID on Senior Secondary Education and Mental Health. However, if 2021 has taught us anything, it's the importance and benefits of personalised time and support from teachers.

Teachers have had a massive role in supporting students over the course of this very difficult year. From anecdotal evidence and having discussions with my peers, it's clear that teachers have put in a lot of effort to engage, motivate and support students during both sudden and extended periods of remote learning.

Teachers at my school, for example, went above and beyond to organise numerous virtual lunchtime activities to engage students, such as Kahoots, open mics, and student-led co-curriculars (which are student-led sessions of anything - dancing, cooking, watching movies etc). Not only did this provide us respite from academic stress, but it also facilitated a safe environment for us to reconnect with out peers.

But sometimes, it's also about the small things in life. My maths teacher, for example, would regularly check-in with us, and ensure that we are prioritising our wellbeing over getting a maths exercise finished. She would even ask me about my latest endeavours at VicSRC, something that I'm passionate about and something that she knew would boost my mood to talk about, so even relatively small things like these truly make a big difference.

This year has emphasised the importance of healthy and positive teacher-student relationships, and I think it has also fostered a sense of gratitude in students. We have come to appreciate the little things, like our teachers checking in regularly, making jokes to engage the class and boost our mood, encouraging us to prioritise our mental health etc.

As well as appreciating the old way more, COVID has forced us to think of new ways of teaching and working. It's undeniable that COVID has had detrimental effects on and outside of the education system, however we should not lose sight of the silver linings, as I like to call them, of COVID.

Remote learning has forced the education system to think creatively and boldly. And as a result of this, we have learnt a number of new approaches that I believe should be embraced for the long term.

Through remote learning, students have noted on many occasions the benefits of being able to work at our own pace. Being able to guide our own learning comfortably and take breaks when necessary exercises independence within students.

Another example of a practice that should be continued is the usage of centralised portals, such as Compass, Google Classroom, etc. The use of these portals supports students to navigate their learning adequately, all from one place. It allows teachers to dispatch content, lesson plans etc. all in a single place as well. This increases accessibility at both ends, and supports student organisation and independence.

During online learning, students also remarked that there was an increased awareness of different learning styles. Teachers uploaded various resources, and utilised numerous mediums to deliver and teach, such as audio files, videos, live classes, visual files and presentations, textbook questions, etc. to cater for all types of learners. This is definitely something that, if continued, would benefit more students on a larger scale, and something that all students want to see happening right into the future.

On behalf of all Victorian students, I would like to say a massive thank you to the DET and all our teachers, who have gone above and beyond in these unprecedented and tough times to support students and our wellbeing. I hope you have a restful and joyful break!

Aakriti
2021-2022 VicSRC Student Executive Advisory Committee Member
Originally published by DET