During the past year one question was repeatedly asked in Irish classrooms, because it is asked every year: what poet would appear on the Leaving Cert paper? Would it be Paul Durcan or the late Eavan Boland?
Until recently nobody proffered the theory that, for most students (some may physically sit the exam at a future date) no poet would come up in 2020, because circumstances have decreed the Leaving Cert is being decided by 'calculated grades'.
So let me nominate a different poet laureate for this year's Leaving Cert students, who would normally be preparing for the exhausting exams that should be the culmination of their secondary education. Because if ever a line summed up how circumstances have robbed the class of 2020 of so many special moments, it was written by John Lennon, on a record just before his death, where he told his son: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Few students will understand Lennon's lyric better than those teenagers who will experience a curious emptiness over the coming weeks as they miss the chance to formally end secondary school by handing papers to an invigilator and walking away in an excited huddle of friends.
Perhaps a similar mystique surrounds exams in other countries, but at times it feels as if Ireland has fetishised the Leaving Cert, with forensic analyses of each exam paper on news bulletins.
Indeed, when the Pope released the 'third secret' of Fatima in 2000, I don't recall it getting as much airtime analysis as the higher level maths paper gets most years.
I'd love to hear some retired teachers dissecting a Leaving Cert paper on the news this June, because it would be a sign of normality in a world where normality has gone.
The travails of Leaving Cert students pale into insignificance when we hear daily national figures for coronavirus deaths and infections.
In such tragic times, thwarted exams are a low enough priority, especially as a complex grading system will hopefully still yield a fair result that will allow students to study their main choice on the complicated CAO form they are faced with at an age when few people know what they want to do with their lives.
But even if the results prove accurate, students will have missed out on other experiences they would have remembered long after they forget how many points they actually got.
In particular, I'm referring to the less formal experiences, such as the final weeks in school where your relationship subtly changes with teachers, or the last day when you hug classmates and say goodbye to teachers who played a role in the formative years of your life.
When I worked as Dublin's worst ever library assistant, I remember flocks of students lying sprawled with text books on the grass in front of Dundrum library in the weeks before the exams. They were studying together, or allegedly studying, amid a frenzied sense of excitement as flirtatious as it was academic.
It's sad that this year's students won't have the same rite of passage that should culminate in them returning to school to congratulate and commiserate each other on the day the results are announced, before they take off like birds leaving a nest.
The Leaving Cert leaves its mark on us; a litmus test of stress. It ingrains itself into our consciousness, waiting to be reactivated for years to come.
In times of stress, people dream about having to still sit one final Leaving Cert exam, despite having left school decades ago. But for all the fuss, it's the most precious and pointless piece of paper you'll ever hold. Precious because its points total can decree what college course - if any - you take. And pointless because it tells you nothing about who you may actually become.
The beauty of being young is that your future is a blank canvas.
Over time, the Leaving Cert becomes a decreasing dot as that canvas gets filled by real achievements, of which there are primarily two: to be able to say you have loved and have been loved. If the students who should have sat their exams next month can say this 30 years from now, their lives will have been a success, and the Leaving Cert just a receding dream, occasionally reoccurring at times of stress.
As Lennon wrote: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". This pandemic derailed exam plans, but, with luck, it won't derail their lives.
Indeed, the cancellation of a seemingly immovable object, a shibboleth of Irish life, may even be good preparation for the changed world we live in, by making them realise how our lives rarely go to plan and it's not what happens to us that matters but how we adapt.
I wish them success in the adventures and discoveries to come.