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From Deputy Principal: Student Engagement and Wellbeing

09 June 2023

I am lucky enough to have an office that has a window out into the school yard. I see the pulse of our community – students strolling to classes, teachers engaging in conversations, support staff buzzing around, a community that supports, engages, communicates, and journeys together.

Our community is a dynamic, vibrant collection of people from many cultures, many stories, many experiences. We each bring a beautiful facet to the richness that is our community. Our College recognises that it is our role to bring these facets together to create a diamond that shines brightly. Through our Model of Instructional Practice, we have the blueprint for this. Our faith, our learning and teaching program, and our wellbeing practices intertwine to offer our students a rich, rewarding, challenging, and engaging learning environment.

Along with our Model of Instructional Practice is the relationship between families and the College. Our families trust the College to provide this learning environment. And we trust our families to support us in this. The work of the College must be supported at home for the best possible outcomes for our students. And communication needs to be open hearted and open minded, one that recognises the important nature of a collaborative and student-centred relationship. Our Parent Code of Conduct proudly states what we promise to do to ensure our young people can flourish and shine.

Each family has a key person who they can call upon for their young person’s needs – their Pastoral and Learning Mentor. Our PaLMs care deeply for their students, advocating for them and guiding them in their learning and their wellbeing. Our Year Level and House Leaders support and lead their teams. They work closely with their PaLMs and with the teachers of their cohort. They create programs and processes, activities and resources to engage our young people more readily with their learning. They are the team who ensures there is connection to the broader College community. Along with our Year Level and House Leaders we have our Directors of Students. They lead their communities and offer direction and support. Their first priority is the student – that each and every one of them may shine brightly. They create the culture and the environment for inclusion and safety, for the celebration of diversity, and the foundation for strong learning and positive growth.

Our young people are also supported by the Counselling Team, who offer one to one counselling and personal development courses. They create programs and support families and staff in the mental health space. We also have our Youth and Family Partnerships Team who support the Wellbeing Team with one on one mentoring, community activities, and family outreach. Our community can shine because of the support networks our College provides not only for our students, but for our staff and for our families.

As I look out my window on this crisp Winter’s morning, I see a community that is brimming with potential, is rich in diversity, is powerful in its unity, is blest in its love for each other. I encourage all our families, our staff, and our students to take some time to look at the beauty that is our College community. Each of us is a magnificent facet of the diamond that is Thomas Carr College. Each one of us has been created to shine brightly, individually and collectively. And each one of us is called to enhance the beauty of the other, to shine a light on each other’s gifts and strengths, and to come together to celebrate and support each other so that we all may flourish, so that we all may shine.

Exams and Anxiety – A Way Through
As you know, we are in Exam Season. Some of us look forward to these. Some of us dread them. And the rest of us sit somewhere along the spectrum. The truth is – we all suffer from some form of Exam Anxiety. So, our question is:

What is exam anxiety?

Most people naturally feel some anxiety before an exam. Some anxiety before and during an exam actually helps to enhance your performance. The extra adrenalin that stress releases can assist you in responding to demanding situations. Sometimes, however, too much adrenalin is released, and you may begin to feel distress. Then anxiety can get in the way of performing well.

It is most useful to keep your anxiety about exams at a level that allows your best performance – not so low that you lack motivation to study and not so high that it gets in the way of you performing well.  The goal is to find ways of managing your anxiety so it promotes alertness and performance.

So, let’s unpack this further. Here is a checklist to deal with the question:

 “Do you have exam anxiety?”

When you have an exam, do you:

  • feel like you “go blank.”
  • find yourself thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’m stupid.”
  • feel like the room is closing in on you.
  • feel your heart racing or find it difficult to breathe.
  • suddenly “know” the answers after turning in the exam.
  • score much lower than on homework or assessment tasks.
  • feel overwhelmed or become distracted.
  • miss important cues from your surroundings.

If you have any of these then here are 4 easy tips to help alleviate Exam Anxiety.

1. Be healthy: If you are physically and emotionally exhausted, your body and mind are less able to tolerate stress and anxiety.  Aim to:

  • get adequate rest.
  • eat well and drink sufficient water.
  • Exercise.
  • give yourself ‘guilt-free’ time for social, enjoyable, and relaxing activities.

2. Be prepared: Over-prepare by studying earlier and more than is absolutely essential.

If you over-prepare, your responses become more automatic, and performance is less affected by anxiety.  Prepare by:

  • completing all practice and review tasks.
  • speaking to your teachers.
  • confirming the location of the exam and leaving sufficient travel time.

3. Regulate your stress level: Aim to lower your level of stress. Effective ways involve altering your physical responses like breathing and muscle tension:

  • Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your immediate surroundings to help regulate your breathing, your heartbeat and your racing mind. Don’t buy into negative energies around you. Move away and note your immediate surroundings out loud in your mind.
  • Breathe! In for the count of three, out for the count of three. Do this three times. This will lower your stress level quickly.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Consciously relaxing your muscles will help your body and mind relax. Practice muscle relaxation during deep breathing. Focus on a particular muscle group (e.g., shoulders) and alternatively tensing and relaxing the muscle. Then, focus on releasing all of the tension in the muscle, repeating ‘relax’ in your mind.

4. Stand Up To Catastrophic Thinking: Thoughts have a direct link to anxiety levels. Negative or catastrophic thinking regarding exams will increase anxiety.  Practice positive self talk. Try some of the following:

  • Become aware of your negative or catastrophic thinking.
  • Look for the evidence for the negative thought. Challenge it.
  • Try turning the volume down on the negative thought.
  • Visualise the negative thought leaving your mind.
  • Imagine a trapdoor at the top of your head with all negativity floating out….

Exam Anxiety is real, and it can be either the push you need or the mountain too hard to climb.

Try these suggestions. Ask teachers for help. Speak to your PaLM, House Leader, or Year Level Leader. And always remember – you are not alone. Together we can get through the exams successfully.

Source: Overcoming Exam Anxiety (

Ms. Ivanka Spiteri
Deputy Principal: Student Engagement and Wellbeing