Community reflections on a challenging year

December 11, 2020

In a year like no other, when unexpected challenges seemed to leap out from every shadow, the College community had to endure enormous stresses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To document the issues faced by many we asked several members of our broader community to provide their summary of how they coped with 2020.

We are thankful for those current parents, students and staff who provided the following reports.

The Gunsser Family 2020 Reflection

by Kerrie Gunnser (Year 7 and Year 9 parent)

2020 commenced as usual with a relaxing summer holiday spent at the beach. As January progressed, we switched focus to preparation for a new school year with Brody commencing Year 7 and Rory Year 9 at St Patrick’s College. The boys happily commenced Term 1, reconnected with friends and settled well. Year 7 camp followed promptly with new friendships formed and a Year 9 camp soon after.

Meanwhile, news of the coronavirus was increasing and the reality of the COVID-19 Pandemic hit Australia. As team sports were disappointingly cancelled, Brody played a Basketball semi-final on March 14 (his 13th Birthday) but there was to be no grand final as facilities were closed promptly thereafter. As time went by their footy club joined many others in cancelling the 2020 season however Rory made a brief change to a country club for a few great games.

The College COVID-19 updates began and remote learning was soon announced. As parents we appreciated the continuance of the daily timetable and teachers connecting with students each lesson. Our boys settled well into a daily routine, though with mixed emotions while missing social interaction and their team sports. Rory, Brody and their younger brother Levi amused each other with indoor and outdoor fun and fitness activities.

On reflection, our boys recall negative feelings of a long winter period not knowing when they would return to school. They missed seeing grandparents, family and friends and were disappointed for missed opportunities, including the Year 9 Melbourne Experience, being a new Year 7 student at St Patrick’s College and sports. We are proud of how our boys have navigated an extremely challenging year and we look forward to a new kind of normal that progresses with caution and hope for a brighter 2021.

2020 School Year and the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Leah Ferguson-Grieve (Year 12 parent)

This year has certainly delivered unprecedented times which have presented numerous challenges for all. In our family, working and learning from home has been an interesting experience. We focused on the positive outcomes, resigning ourselves to the fact that we were not alone in our temporary way of life. No doubt, every family has been presented with their own challenges, including like us, missing family, friends and getaways.

In our household we have been taking care of one another, looking after our mental health and feeling grateful that both my husband and I have been in secure employment. Luckily our children, Mitchell in Year 12 at St Pat’s and Alexandra in Year 9 at Loreto College, have both been competent enough (being such a tech savvy generation) to navigate their way through online learning, as well as prioritising time to get out for physical activity, connect with the environment and interact with friends while exercising.

Overall, Mitchell and Alexandra have coped well although there is no denying Year 12 has been a challenge online. The main obstacles have been remaining motivated, the difficulty in accessing school resources and most importantly, like all year levels, not being amongst their peers.

More than anything I feel disappointed that for Mitchell’s final year of school he has missed out on so many extra-curricular, social activities. Mitchell has like many, had to alter his plans for 2021, his gap year was to consist of work and travel and now he is also missing out on visiting the US and Canada in December as part of the St Patrick’s College Basketball Tour.

On the upside for the short term, we enjoyed having less social and sporting commitments and had family games nights, bush walks, trialled new recipes and had quality family time that we may not have had without restrictions in place.

Our COVID-19 kids will no doubt be more resilient individuals. I trust they will use their lockdown experience in the future to navigate through more challenging times and no doubt make up for the social engagements that were missed. As an adult I think it has been an opportunity to reassess life in general and set goals moving forward, prioritising the important things. Bring on non-pandemic times. Let’s hope this was a once in a lifetime lockdown and people can focus on the positives of the experience, not taking our day-to-day activities and freedom for granted.

2020 Canteen Reflection

by Jo Dickson (College Canteen Manager)

Well, what a year we have all had. Mine has certainly been a little bit different from what I was expecting. Thinking that our only problem in the Canteen this year was going to be able to get through serving all the boys during the All-In-One lunch break, in comes COVID and everything is out the window.

I was lucky to be redeployed within the school and this certainly gave my life some sort of normality which was great. During my redeployment one of my jobs was to help with the supervision of the boys while they were at school doing remote learning. This enabled me to get to know some of the boys outside of just feeding them.

Trying online lunch orders really is not a boy thing, they are never that organised to know what they want to eat the day before. The boys sometimes eat on the impulse from seeing someone else eating something and think that looks good I think I might get that, especially when the weather turns cold and miserable.

I have certainly missed seeing all our wonderful volunteers this year, hopefully we will be able to have them back in sometime next year in Term 1.  I think the highlight for me was when we were able to reopen the Canteen for the boys to just walk up and buy something (even though it was eftpos only) and seeing such big smiles and their joy of being able to walk up to buy their food face to face.

We should all look on the bright side, things could have been a lot worse for all of us. Just imagine if COVID happened ten years ago with no computers, no internet, just books, pens and paper and having to rely on the Australia Post.  I wonder what next year is going to have in store for us.

Experiences with the school year and the COVID-19 pandemic

by Samuel Cue (Year 9 Coordinator)

If you had have told me this time last year that I would spend half of 2020 teaching from home, I’d have laughed and even questioned, “How would that be possible?” The past year has most certainly brought about many challenges, but more so, new opportunities – both come hand in hand, depending on perception.

Learning the ins and outs of a program which enabled lessons to be delivered remotely was challenge number one, or, opportunity number one. A chance to learn a new skill is something that should always be embraced, especially when it has the potential to change the way people work well into the future – which we do, still using the program to conduct meetings and even interviews today.

Potentially the largest challenge faced was providing our students with relevant and engaging content. Being somewhat difficult to gauge engagement, particularly if students did not like to participate in conversation in an online classroom. I personally found it challenging to assess participation levels, but also an overall level of understanding. It was great however, to see some of our students thrive within the remote learning environment.

On a personal level, the time spent at home during remote learning was a blessing. Despite the disappointment of not being able to see extended family for quite some time, it provided the greatest opportunity of spending more quality time at home with my young family that I otherwise would not have been able to.

Perception is key. Identifying the many opportunities in which the year presented, despite the challenges we all faced on a regular basis, I feel as though I have learnt a great amount about myself, both as a person and as a professional in the field of education.

2020 – a Year in Reflection

by Paddy Klain (Year 7H)

When COVID-19 hit, I hadn’t been at St Pat’s for a whole term yet and then we were being prepared for online schooling. Everyone was a bit unsure, but we were all in the same boat. The teachers were all really helpful which would have been hard for them I guess, as it was all new for them too.

The first lockdown was a bit tricky at first, working out what programs to go on for each lesson. But once I got the hang of it, it was okay. The worst part for me was not having any sport and not being able to see my friends or family. I’m glad we live on 10 acres so I could still ride my bike or motorbike and do heaps of stuff outside. My sister and I dragged the old canoe out and paddled around in the dam, which was fun.

We had a few zoom chats with family and some were pretty funny, watching my Nanna try and work out how to turn the audio on. Mum worked from home and Dad still went to work every day, so it didn’t really matter too much for us. I was really glad when I could go back to sport and school.

The second lockdown was probably a bit easier because we knew what to do this time, but it was still annoying not having sport or being able to see friends or family who were in hospital. I’ll be happy to be back at school for the rest of Term 4. I guess Year 7 is a year I will never forget.


My experience with 2020 and the Pandemic

by Charlton Hand (Year 8E) 

My experience with COVID-19 was probably as unique as yours, from the lack of toilet paper to the fear of having cases right here in Ballarat, coronavirus was a massive turntable. It all started as just a cold in China. I remember watching the news and hearing about how it was affecting China but it was all a bit unrealistic.

Soon the virus had spread to America in March and seeing that really made this a lot more realistic as I have family living over there. Soon the first wave hit Australia and the first lockdown was very stressful. I will never forget going to the supermarket and seeing all of the shelves empty from so many people panic buying.

As money also started to become an issue with people losing their jobs and the stock market crashing, everything seemed so real. However, after what felt like forever in lockdown we finally got out and with masks now compulsory Australia was starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel. However, soon enough everything was cancelled again including school and sports.

The second wave was the scariest of them all as it was mainly in Victoria, however after another long lockdown we got through it. Australia is currently doing amazing with COVID. We have had zero new cases for a long time and it is looking to be the ending of the pandemic altogether.

 My Year in Review

by Ngor Bar (Year 9F)

The year started off with high hopes, but vastly went downhill after the pandemic known as COVID-19. Before the virus had reached Victoria, the Year 9s attended camp in Queenscliff at the beginning of the year, in which we did activities such as snorkelling, surfing, sleeping in tents, hiking, and concluded with a casual stroll around the town centre. This camp was the first of three on our agenda, but we very unfortunately missed out on the Melbourne Experience, and the Grampians camp.

Later on during the end of the Term 2 holidays, the city I live in known as Melbourne had been placed into stage 4 lockdown for six weeks, which resulted in me having to stay at the boarding house during that time.

The lockdown forced me to feel isolated, but I courageously persevered and could see the visible finish line. With one week left to go, the Premier of Victoria announced that Melbourne had barely shown positive results, which gave him no choice but to enforce another six weeks of lockdown. During this time, I struggled mentally, and physically more times than others, but I continued to continue on.

Surviving the most challenging year of our lives

by Jett Marshman (Year 9F)

Finally, the last day of school for 2020. We survived probably the most challenging year we have had at our time at St Pat’s however we have had our good times too. We had activity days where we played footy, basketball, cricket and or even watching movies during school, I think that’s definitely better than being in class. However, we missed out on some extra curricular activities like after school footy and basketball but it was definitely made up for on days that the coordinators and teachers planned special activities for us to take part in.

We participated in challenge days as well where we had the freedom and trust by teachers to roam the streets of Ballarat while completing tasks along the way. We hiked Mount Buninyong with our classmates, and we also went to Vic Park to get an insight of what our time at the Grampians Camp would’ve looked like. But on the other hand we missed out on the infamous Melbourne experience camp. However, it was made up for with all of the activities that the teachers and coordinators planned to give us an enjoyable time together.

It was a real rough couple of terms in home school and it feels really good to be back especially seeing all the boys again. Overall it has been a rough but rewarding year and I’d like to thank all the teachers for setting up classes and work for us to complete while constantly checking up on us and making sure we are in a good mindset and even giving us some free time to get outside and clear our head.



A reflection on my 2020 experiences

by Joel Ballesty (Year 10J)

With all the frustrations and the harm that has come to the world throughout 2020 many may look back on it as a time they will want to put behind them, however, for me there were also many benefits to the year that were evident.

COVID-19 forced the world to wear masks, reduce travel, restrict our activities and enter quarantine. We lost excursions, work experience and personally the greatest impact for me was the cancellations in Drama, where I lost the opportunities to partake in Matilda, The Brothers Grimm and even the Loreto/St Pat’s production for 2021. Furthermore, COVID-19 also limited my external class options at BCMA.

Another area that impacted me was the inability of traveling to see family. This was hard for me because most of my family lives in Sydney, NSW, making it impossible to see them without the aid of Facetime or social media. We had planned twice to see the family in 2020, the first time stopped by the wildfires and the second by the COVID-19 lockdowns. We knew there was nothing we could change about it so we had to just hope we could visit them later in the year.

This year has had silver linings in different areas though, such as the effect it has had on the adaptability of the educational system. The pandemic forced students to learn remotely from their computers at home. This new dynamic called for altered teaching methods, some students struggled with the change and others embraced the different approach. While of course missing the social interaction of school in the flesh, I personally enjoyed the innovative online experience and the different format of education. The adaptability of schools will likely improve permanently because of this and I am eager to see where this goes in the future.

2020 – What a memorable year!

by Hugh Ollerenshaw (Year 11E)

2020 has truly been a memorable year and, for many, one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. As students, we have been forced to adapt to a new style of learning, completely remote from our friends and teachers.

Coping throughout this school year has not been easy and, for me, (along with many of my peers) the hardest challenge has been the inability to interact face-to-face with people that we had been so used to seeing five days a week. It wasn’t so much the schoolwork that I struggled with, but rather this sudden lack of social connection.

At first, online learning seemed great: the sleep-ins, learning at my own pace, playing Among Us (of course not during school). However, this apparent freedom within my own home quickly gave way to a growing desire to once more experience the normality of an average school day. I missed my mates and I know that others also began to feel the effects of not being able to see each other. To combat this isolation, we all naturally spent a lot more time talking to each other online, and we managed to have a lot of fun this way. We were able to check in on each other and put aside some of our concerns, as well as learn from each other when it was not so easy to raise a hand for the teacher. This was good, but I think that even the students who had previously disliked school began to realise how important a part it played in their lives, if only for its social interactions.

Upon returning, there was certainly, at least for me, a sense of pride in my fellow students, knowing that, although we had been separated, we had made it through this tough time together and I believe it has only made us stronger and more prepared for whatever the future holds.

How the Pandemic impacted my final year at SPC

by Will Clark (Year 12G)

Being a Year 12 student during these difficult times has been a pretty full-on experience. It has been tough to cope with these circumstances both in and out of school. I came into this year full of excitement knowing year 12 is supposed to be the best year of my life.

The main thing I struggled the most with during the isolation and online learning period was definitely motivation and not being able to see my mates every day. I was sometimes in a “what’s the point” mindset and didn’t really see any positive outcomes. I saw this year as putting on the green tie everyday, hanging out with my brothers in Chapel Court having a laugh and embracing our last year at the College. I was also motivated to put my best foot forward in the classroom and set myself up for a positive future. And being stuck inside staring at a computer screen all day did impede my motivation levels, but also took its toll on my wellbeing, and it definitely would have for a lot of other Year 12s.

The thing that impacted me most was not being able to represent the College in the Herald Sun Shield at the MCG in my final year. Last year’s loss left me feeling very flat and I was so eager to have another crack at it this year, and to have that taken away was pretty devastating for me. As tough as it was, the support from my family, mates and teachers helped me get through and see light at the end of the tunnel. It also helped me learn to never take things for granted and to appreciate the little things in life.

It was not by any means the year us boys were hoping for, but the past six years have been an amazing experience and these difficult experiences do not reflect the great experiences I’ve had at the College.