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School Survival Toolkit

12 Aug 2020 - Y CommunityY KidsY Youth

The Y NSW Forward Thinking Social Impact Project is an Online Leadership Program for young people across New South Wales.

Supported by NSW Government's Youth Opportunities Grant, the project has been working with more than 50 young people, providing training in leadership and personal development.

The following School Survival Toolkit is a resource for young people and educators to support the mental health and wellbeing of their peers and students.

Advice from Year 12, class of 2020.

We’ve compiled some advice straight from the mouths of current HSC students about getting through school happily and healthily.

  • You can’t study 24/7, take serious breaks that you don’t feel guilty for
  • There is help around you, you just need to ask for it (social, academic, etc.)
  • Don’t over commit yourself, but keep doing the things you love
  • Keep things in perspective: this year isn’t going to go as you have it planned out, you’ll encounter obstacles but remind yourself of their scale
  • Bite the bullet and study your least favourite subject first
  • Everyone organises themselves differently, don’t compare your planner to someone else's virtual diary
  • A really aesthetic diary does not equate to organisation
  • Your health is number 1! No point in having a good ATAR if you’re not healthy enough to celebrate it
  • Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
  • You know you! While some people might be able to go to an 18th the night before their English exam, it’s okay if you can’t! You need to know yourself.
  • Look out for your mates!
  • Don’t spend each and every arvo studying, your health is more important than anything and remember there are so many pathways to get where you want
  • Decide what you want from your final year as you go in. The HSC means different thing for different people, so know what YOU need from it.
  • Be consistent with your studies throughout the year
  • Study, Study, STUDY! get into a good study routine and keep up with assignments ☺
  • Be disciplined but also don’t be too hard on yourself. Always start assessments as soon as they are given and finish them with at least three days in advance. Study/revise in the Christmas holidays before Term 1. Summarise notes as you go. Always annotate your own notes from past assessments or past HSC papers. Hope this helps!
  • Don’t stuff around: seek as much help as you can. Make notes after each lesson and practice as much as you can. Study helps heaps!
  • Stay focused and motivated
  • Actually TRY!
  • Your effort will equal the results you want.

Public speaking

By Connor Burke

Who do we picture when we think of talented public speakers? John F. Kennedy? Barack Obama? Julia Gillard?

While these are extreme examples - they all have something in common with each other and you. They had to learn and practice to become talented public speakers.

Yes, it’s true, public speaking is not just a skill you are born with. It is more than just confidence. At the most basic level, good public speaking comes down to three core things which are:

  1. Preparation.
  2. Style.
  3. Confidence.

Preparation as the first stage of public speaking can make or break your speech almost straight away if you go about it the wrong way or worse still, do not even go about it at all.

Truthfully, the type of preparation you require depends on you, some people prefer having their whole speech or presentation written while others might prefer dot points to improvise off. But, you should still at the very least know your content.

Still, the most important aspect of research is needed for any type of public speech of speaker and that is KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE.

Knowing your audience is the difference between a speech that makes people laugh, keeps them interested, and allows them to learn something new and an awkward speech which only succeeds in creating a sense of boredom.

For example, student leaders taking on the role of facilitating this wellbeing presentation for their peers should research (if they don’t know already) what has happened in their cohort’s past - What would make them laugh? A short anecdote put into a speech can work wonders.

But even outside of that, anecdotes aren’t necessary, but it is important to adopt an appropriate tone - facilitating a student presentation can be more casual with humour but a presentation for teachers? More formal.

So, what is the takeaway from preparation as part of public speaking? In essence, prepare a speech in what way works for you (while still knowing your content) but more importantly, know your audience.

Preparation flows into the next important part of public speaking and that is style. Style involves this appropriate tone that I mentioned early but also involves how you present yourself.

Public speaking usually involves elocution which is to say clear and expressive speech that ensures that the speaker is not only understood but is easy to follow with. Part of this is, of course, raising your voice but it also involves making your sentences flow and not just to stop or trail off.

The best method for practicing elocution is to record yourself presenting your speech or presentation and try to follow yourself as you speak. Or even better, try presenting it in front of a friend or family member to iron out any parts that seem confusing or artificial.

Style might not be as important as content or preparation, but it is still essential in ensuring that your presentation is appropriate, clear, and enjoyable to experience as an audience member.

Finally, confidence is another aspect of public speaking that many mistakenly believe as a personality trait you are born with instead of what it truly is, a learnable skill.

The key to confidence during public speaking is found in the preparation phase where if you have your content known to a tee then it's much easier to be confident in communicating it to others. Know what you are trying to say.

Beyond just knowing your content, there are a few tricks I have picked up myself from my time as a school captain. A little technique I have found is to plant your feet - imagine as if an invisible force is keeping you upright, back straight, and preventing you from losing control. Just a little mental trick but it does help.

Lastly, positive visualisation is a more powerful tool than you might realise - this is the method of visualising your goals and desired outcome from your work. By imagining this, you on a deeper level realise that it is entirely within the scope of your abilities to reach this outcome. For me, this has always inspired greater confidence within myself.

Getting your project approved

By Jasper Arthur

Some of you may have some amazing ideas that you’d like to run at your school.  Now, you might be wondering where to start and whom to approach in order to get started!

Who should I talk to?

Key stakeholders that can be useful to consult with are:

  • Your Principal/Deputy Principal
  • Your Year Advisor
  • Your school’s wellbeing team/counsellor (see if they have any input into the program)
  • Your school’s Student Representative Council (SRC)

When approaching any of the above stakeholders, ensure that you’re confident (there’s no need to be nervous) and show them a project plan. This should include a rough timeline, a budget including any costs, and details of who will be required. Ensure that you show them how valuable this program will be to the wellbeing of the students of your school. Ensure that you find the answers to any questions people may have and always remember to be respectful of people’s different opinions. 

Once you gain the approval of the necessary stakeholders within your school, it’s time to begin planning how you will run the project within your school! When planning ensure that you pick an appropriate time to run the project for your year/school; ensure that there’s no clashes on the school calendar. If your project involves you doing a presentation, see our tips on presentation skills article!

Good luck!

What is confidence?

By Victoria Diep

Confidence is the feeling of trust in one’s abilities to complete a task, it can be a form of trust within yourself or others. It is one of the essential building blocks in one’s life, it takes time to develop, with some taking more time than others, which is perfectly natural.

→ What qualities are a factor in confidence?

  • A sense of trust
  • Integrity
  • Experience
  • Support
  • Adaptability

What are the benefits of being a confident speaker?

  • Helps engage an audience - you will be clearer and more active during your time speaking
  • Increases one’s trust in your decisions or statements, as they can see that you trust your decisions enough to present it to others without hesitation
  • Helps you communicate your ideas clearly, as you would be able to project your voice more clearly so that everyone can hear
  • Allows for you to accept new opportunities and push yourself to go beyond, you would trust yourself to experiment and place yourself through new environments and situations
  • Helps you gain experience in speaking, comfort in crowds and being open about your opinions

What can hold us back from being confident?

  • Lacking confidence can stem from poor self-esteem.
  • Certain situations appear more daunting because of factors such as the size of the audience
  • Unfamiliarity towards new situations can affect confidence as they have no experience at that moment.
  • Not having a support network to help foster these characteristics.

What can we do to foster more confidence?

Be (or make yourself) more prepared when placing yourself into a new situation

  • This can include small warm-ups before presentations or interactions.
  • Prior research to the topics
  • (With presentations) practice, practice, practice!

→ Be open to more opportunities

  • Say yes to more events or opportunities
  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone (it can be small; baby steps start the way to success)

Bring a buddy along, this ensures that you will have a support system(optional).

This article explores the various stresses that occur with school, friendships and life in general and could help you come up with some useful strategies to mitigate the stress that you experience with everyday life. Stress is unfortunately an inherent characteristic of school life and can occur due to the pressure of exams, as well as life in general. 

Stress and how to cope

By Jasper Arthur

What is stress?

Basically, Stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it's real or imagined—the body's defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.” The stress response is the body's way of protecting you. In school, often you will ‘sense danger’ when you do exams, or receive results, as you are emotionally vested in your studies. Stress can also occur with your friends, and other relationships when problems occur. 

When dealing with stress, firstly you should identify the cause of your stress (e.g. too much homework.) Once that is identified, you can work out strategies to deal with it (in the homework scenario, you could draw out a timetable of when you’re going to complete everything.) That way, you will feel more in-control of the situation and can proactively deal with it. 

This video does a good idea of explaining the stress response 

These videos show some great strategies for reducing stress

Relationships and friends 

by Ashleigh Cook

In this article we explore how to implement the strong importance of friendship, and the benefit of having a powerful friendship, how to be a good friend, how we as an individual that can help and support your friends who are trying to cope with studying, dealing with stress or having a tough time. 

We will cover the following topics

  1.  The importance of friends
  2. What are the benefits of friendships?
  3. How to be a good friend?
  4. How can a friend support you with studying and dealing with stress?


  1. The importance of friends 
  • Friends are a huge part of life. studies have shown time and time again the importance our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. 
  1. What are the benefits of friendships?

Having friends has been proven to provide mental health and well-being benefits, as it prevents loneliness, provides companionship and support.

  • Increasing sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boosting happiness and stress reduction 
  • Improvement of self-confidence and self-worth
  • Helping cope in difficult times 
  • Encourage good habits and behaviours 
  1. How to be a good friend?

Be an active listener and understand them?

  • The power of friendship is about connection by practicing active listening skills. It is the ability to practice concentrating on three key questions: Why? What? and How?
  • The answer to these leading questions will allow us to make informed decisions and provided necessary support on being a good friend. 

Ask them, how they can be supported 

  • Genuinely helping friends and supporting them through tough times, in particular offering them help by talking to them and asking what they need.

Keep in touch and be available 

  • Shows support by keeping in regular contact through social media, texts or calls, if you are unable to visit them
  • Be available and listen without having an agenda or assumption 
  1. How can a friend support you with studying and dealing with stress?

Helping friends deal with stress by talking about things, in particular through talking stuff to Help them figure out what’s bothering them. Some techniques to help them deal with stress and studying are:

How to manage stress

  • Try a bit of problem solving. Work with them and figure out what’s stressing them, break it down into small steps that will be easier to get through, and try to construct a plan to stay motivated. 

Make time slots 

  • If your friend is stressed out, they might not be taking the time out for relaxation. By creating time slots for them, to take time to relax and rejuvenate, they stress will reduce drastically and they will be able to cope with studies more effectively.

Use positive coping strategies

It is important to have positive coping strategies to avoid overthinking, self-blame and excessive worrying. The positive coping strategies aimed at removing stress in general, but also assisting friends get through the stress of studying, which may include:                   

  • making immediate and short-term goal plan
  • focusing on the positives of every situation 
  • seeking help when you need it 
  • improving relationships and friendships
  •  more time for physical activity or exercise 
  • create positive coping activities 


So, whilst stress is something that we all experience in one form or another, if you are experiencing significant stress in your life, it’s important that you find a way to mitigate it, as it will significantly improve your wellbeing. Remember, if you are experiencing significant stress of anxiety, see your school counsellor, or see a medical expert.


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