Winning the wait
Supporting Year 13 / Grade 12 in uncertain times
Careers and Universities Counsellor, Paul Yap, looks at how graduating students can ‘win the wait’ imposed on them as they plan for the future during lockdown.
The current pandemic and all its associated constraints are powerful forces that are beyond easy control – we have all had to learn patience. This is hard for anyone, but especially tough for students about to graduate high school as they plan for the coming year of their lives. There is always uncertainty at the end of Year 13 or Grade 12, but this year, things have been particularly difficult and unpredictable. Will there be exams? If not, how will my hard work be assessed? Will my grades be undervalued if my teachers have awarded them? Will I get a place at the college of my choice? What will it be like when I get there – if I get there?
In a recent webinar conducted by the NCAA, one of the coaches noted that possibly the most important things student athletes can do is “win the wait” during the ongoing pandemic. Coach Hernando Planells, Head Women’s Basketball coach at William Jessup gave some sound advice and commented on the importance of continuing to work hard, continuing to do research, continuing to be in communication with universities even during these difficult times of COVID-19. In short – keeping focused.
It’s a message that has been taken to heart at our school. Even without a programme of varsity sport to prepare for, our coaches at Bangkok Patana have continued working on training their athletes and PE teachers have encouraged students to engage in exercise as much as possible. They want to ‘win the wait’ and it has gone further. IB students have been engaging in the CAS activities programme and finding out there is always something that you can be doing to make yourself not only a better athlete, but also a better person.
Waiting with attitude
Reflecting on the importance of queuing and waiting for things to happen during the pandemic, I realised how important it has been during lockdown to wait with the right attitude. It’s almost like ‘active waiting’. The importance of not just waiting for things to happen, but waiting responsibly and taking the initiative seemed increasingly important to me. We also began to realise that this is a worthwhile approach, not only during the lockdown but also for life in general.
As a Careers team, we continuously talk to students about exploring the ‘super-curricular’: the things that we read, the things that we do, that we explore outside of the classroom, because we are interested in them. We can either see our cup as half full or half empty, and if you want to win the wait, there is only one way to go. As some avenues close down, others open up with new things to learn for which you may not have had time before. There are opportunities for taking part in service organisations, designing websites, taking part in virtual marathons, exploring courses on Coursera, Udemy and other MOOC platforms. Opportunities, in other words, to “win the wait.”
In his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman talks about two systems constantly battling for control of your thoughts – the conscious and the automatic. The automatic system helps us jump to easy schemas. We don’t have to think about two plus two being four; dark clouds mean we should bring an umbrella, or if a car is coming, I automatically know “I need to get out of the way.” The more conscious system helps you focus, exerting deliberate control so that we can ensure that we do not miss things.
As human beings we tend to rely on our automatic system, “habits” if you want to call it something. A habit can of course be a good thing because it enables us to do something excellently. But other habits, like inertia, can make us continue on a track that prevents us from growing, from evolving, from challenging ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Taking action to ‘win the wait’ is not automatic – we need to engage our mindful, conscious system to help create the correct atmosphere to move forward.
“Winning the wait” can take many forms. By taking the opportunity to explore and understand what makes us happy and what we enjoy, even in the most trying of circumstances, we can move on. If we win the wait, the experience of lockdown won’t be wasted and may even turn out to be something of lasting benefit. As far as our graduating students are concerned, I am convinced students who ‘win the wait’ will also be noticed and viewed favourably when colleges make their final offers.
Paul Yap is a Careers and Universities Counsellor at Bangkok Patana School.