The horror of VCE – Teens under pressure

It’s the toughest time of year for VCE students who are right in the middle of exams and facing intense pressure to do their best. I remember it myself like it was yesterday and now I’m watching my son Tom go through the same ordeal. But is it the same? Is it worse for students these days because competition to get into tertiary courses is more fierce or is it all relative?

Tom studying

Tom studying

With so much media focus on how difficult a time it is for students, I thought I’d try and get some answers from some teenagers themselves. That can be hard – particularly with young men – so I decided to take Tom (who has just turned 18) out to lunch, along with my sixteen-year-old nephew, Jesper, who is facing Year 10 exams, to ask them first-hand how they are coping. Which they found highly amusing…

Out to lunch with Tom and Jesper

Out to lunch with Tom and Jesper

Here’s how our chat went.

JEN: Jesper, you’re going through exams right now. Is it intense?

JESPER: I think it’s pretty low key because it’s not relevant to my VCE score. It’s the last year where it doesn’t count. And the subjects I’m doing now, I’m not doing next year, apart from English, so it doesn’t matter so much. I can just cruise through.

Jesper ponders his future

Jesper ponders his future

JEN: Have you got an idea about what you want to do after school yet? Is there a lot of pressure to make up your mind early on?

JESPER: There is a lot of pressure with teachers asking you what you want to do. For me, I think it will be interior design. Or maybe… no, I think interior design.

(I’m very impressed he knows already!)

JEN: And Tom you’re right in the middle of Year 12 exams. How are you finding it?

TOM: It’s a pleasure to be here. (heavy sarcasm and comedic tone) Jennifer, great question firstly, and thank you again for having me here.

JEN: If you’re going to be a politician, you’re going to have to stop the avoidance tactics and learn to answer the question. Oh hang on, no, you’ll be a great politician… So HOW ARE YOU COPING with the pressure of exams?

TOM: Another good question. No, it’s a lot of pressure. These are last exams I’ll ever do at school. Lot of people make you feel like you’re whole future is hanging in the balance when you go into those exams, so yes, a lot of pressure. You’re hands shake a bit when you’re writing answers sometimes, so a decent amount of pressure.

JEN: You told me about one of your mates who was so terrified before an exam that he couldn’t even face being near his friends before walking in to the exam room…

TOM: Yes, one of my friends had to go off into a classroom to be by himself and try and calm down. Then he came outside the exam room where we were all huddled, having a chat, and my friend took himself into a corner. His hands were together his head was down his eyes were closed and it looked like he was praying. So he looked very stressed.

A lot of kids are also really exhausted from studying so much. They put pressure on themselves to do well. And there are a lot of stories about kids having problems with their parents – not getting along at all. The parents want them to study harder and get so angry that a couple of boys have run away from home.

JEN: And how have your parents been?

At least Tom can manage a smile!

At least Tom can manage a smile!

TOM: Just atrocious. I’ve detested every second I’ve spent with them. (He’s smiling, so it’s okay…) No, in all seriousness, they’ve been good. Very reasonable expectations – not too much pressure. Although occasionally when I come downstairs to have a break and I’m at the table eating, my mother will say, ‘Gee, study’s going well,’ which is perhaps a bit unfair. Especially at 10.30 at night.

JEN: I’m sorry. I think I said that when I came home after being out so thought you’d been taking it easy all night. Sorry. Jesper, let’s get back to you… (and avoid Tom’s home truths- ouch!) Jesper, when you hear Tom talk about Year 12, does that worry you or do you think you’ll be fine?

JESPER: I think I’ll probably be more relaxed. I’m probably not the brightest kid out there, but at least I know what I want to do so I can focus on that. (He is very bright – and modest!)

JEN: And you’ve got better social skills which is a huge plus.

Taking time out

Taking time out

JESPER: Yep, a relaxed Libran.

TOM: Does he? Meaning I don’t?

JEN: No, I wasn’t comparing him to you. Just saying that he’s better with people than your average bookworm academic-type. He’s a charmer and that will be a huge plus when he’s persuading clients to take on his interior design work. (much laughter)

TOM: Well, you can’t study for that.

JEN: No, but Tom you’re a charmer too. You have heaps of friends! What are you all planning to do after your last exam to celebrate?

TOM: Just go back to a friend’s house and have a quiet cup of tea and biscuits while we recount stories about school then go home at 9pm and go to bed and have a nice relaxed time. (more laughter)

JEN: Right… So is there much excitement about the end being near?

TOM: Yes, I just got a message from Ted on the way here – a group chat – saying only ‘Nine more days, fellas.’ We’re all looking at the calendar. I have a countdown clock on my computer till the final exam so it will be a fantastic feeling when we finally finish.

JEN: And what do you want to do career-wise?

TOM: Be a stay-at-home parent.

JEN: Oh nice. So how many grandchildren will I be having?

TOM: I’m looking at between 17 and 21.

JEN: So you’re planning to move out of home?

TOM: I’m planning to live with my parents forever.

JEN: You might need to get a job to feed that many tiny mouths.

TOM: Both my parents are in the media so I’ll be fine.

JEN: I think you should be in the media.

TOM: Ah, thanks, Mum!

Jesper offers Tom some advice on their radio show together

Jesper offers Tom some advice on their radio show together

JEN: And I think Jesper could be in the business too.

TOM: Well, this is where Jesper and I want to announce our new radio show together. Actually it’s a podcast.

JESPER: Yes, we’re going to be stars.

JEN: Okay, but can you just get through exams first?

BOTH: Sure.

JEN: Then you can be stars. Thanks guys, Good chat. Now get back to the books.

Well I think that went quite well. A few stories about the rigours of Year 12, but ultimately I think Tom’s coping brilliantly. I’m incredibly proud of the hard work he’s put in consistently all year and the marks he’s already achieved.

Good luck Tom for the last two exams next week!

But while it’s been a tough year for VCE students, it’s also been hard on the parents.

Now I’m working on the More Music Brekkie Show with Mike Person at smoothfm, we’ve been chatting all year about both having sons in Year 12 and what we are all going through. Good luck to Will as well!

And while our sons will be letting of steam at the end of it all with SCHOOLIES, we thought it was time to give the parents a special celebration to mark the end of a tough year as well.

So that’s why we’re organising a ‘PARENTIS’ night – next week. If you also have a teenager studying VCE, you can join us AND be in the running to win a trip to India! – See more at:

Getting in shape – how ALINTA THE GURU has convinced me this is the BEST way

On the NEVER-ENDING quest to be healthy and lose weight, I’ve recently signed on with a new personal trainer and she is INSPIRATIONAL!

Her name is ALINTA WILLET and she is one very cool lady. And super fit.

Alinta Willet

Alinta Willet

In fact, Alinta is so inspirational, I now refer to her as ALINTA THE GURU when I chat about her wonderful fitness tips on air with Mike Perso on the SmoothFM More Music Breakfast Show.

I decided to go back to the gym because I knew if I didn’t commit to working out WITH SOMEONE ELSE on a regular basis, I’d never have the will power to do it on my own. And I was about ten kilos overweight… Early morning radio is not good for the waistline!!

Alinta is 33 years old and has been a personal trainer for about 18 months.

When she hit thirty, Alinta felt it was time for a career change. She’d been working in the hospitality industry for a long time and the lifestyle was taking a toll.

A lightbulb moment!

A light bulb moment!

After suffering some health issues of her own, she was inspired by a girlfriend to take up weight training and had a….


‘I thought this is great and everyone should be doing it. I became quite passionate about weight training. IT’S THE HOLY GRAIL!  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before and thought it was amazing.’


REALLY??? When I heard this from Alinta three months ago, I was skeptical. You see, I’d returned to the gym out of a feeling of necessity and duty – not because I thought it would be the answer to my prayers.

Turns out, Alinta has helped me to make some big changes to my body and I am starting to see what she’s talking about. Everything she has been saying is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT and makes complete sense.

In a nutshell, here are the benefits of weight training, according to Alinta The Guru.

Training with Alinta

Training with Alinta

  1. Body toning
  2. Anti-ageing
  3. Weight loss is easier because muscle burns fat
  4. Positive thinking
  5. Less stress
  6. Mental and physical discipline
  7. Can overcome back pain
  8. Body strength
  9. Improves overall health
  10. Decreases blood pressure
  11. Improves sleeping



Alinta’s enthusiasm is infectious too. She really does LOVE her job and our chats during the work out sessions make the time spent at the gym fun as well. Here’s how our conversation about weight training went:

JEN: SO tell my why I should work out?

ALINTA: There are SO many benefits from weight training. Not only does it make you stronger physically, I believe it makes you stronger mentally as well. It’s a discipline. As well, you are pushing yourself to your limits each time. If you manage to get through a tough session, it’s a good feeling and you feel like you’ve achieved something. It’s a win! The more wins the better. Each workout is a win.

JEN: Have you been able to see results with your clients?

ALINTA: I’ve been getting some great results. Nothing makes me happier than when clients come to me and say they don’t have back pain anymore or they’re losing the weight they want to lose. It’s why I do it – it’s so rewarding.

JEN: Do you ever get bored?

ALINTA: No! I love what I do and being able to change people’s lives for the better. That’s my mission in life. To help as many people as I can to become stronger, fitter, healthier and happier.’

(See? I told you she was a wonderful person!)

JEN: How does weight training help the body lose fat?

ALINTA:  Lifting weights helps to build fast twitch muscles that raise your metabolism. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn at rest. There’s also the afterburner effect of exercise that can last for as long as 38 hours after your workout.

(I really like this point – that more muscle burns more calories – even when you’re NOT working out!)

JEN: What about the risks of becoming too muscle-bound? As a woman, I don’t want to look like a beefcake…

ALINTA: You won’t! It would take an enormous amount of hours to look like a body-builder. I also tailor individual programs for each client, so everyone’s workout is different. You can’t have a cookie cutter gym program for everybody.

JEN: One thing I love about working out with you is that you also manage to fix tight spots in my neck or back that are causing me problems. Do you do that for everyone or am I special?

ALINTA: Well, you are special but all the workouts are based on structural balance. That means it’s important to fix any structural abnormalities for any individual. Once your body structure is better, everything else will follow. Another reason why I love weight training so much is that I used to wake up with chronic neck and back problems every day before I started training properly and now I don’t get that at all.

JEN: What are the other health benefits?

ALINTA: Strength training does so much! It decreases blood pressure, improves heart function by increasing arterial function and decreasing inflammation. It also improves hormone levels by helping to eliminate oestrogen – which means less cancer risk and lower body fat.

It can also help if you’re trying to have a baby! Working with weights improves reproductive function.

Weight training can enhance the nervous system and gene pathways, with new evidence emerging evidence that shows how weight lifting prevents ageing by rebuilding damaged tissues. It also leads to better brain function and coordination of movement.

Jen: Cool! So I’m going to be stronger, brighter, younger, healthier AND smarter??

Alinta: Sure! And that is WHY weight training is the HOLY GRAIL!

Me and Alinta

Me and Alinta

So you can see why I’ve been converted! Since training with ALINTA THE GURU, I have lost more than five kilos and feel much healthier and more toned than I have for years. Nor do the sessions every get dull, as Alinta changes my program about every six weeks.

Alinta also has plenty of clever tips about healthy eating. And drinking! But this Blog is long enough already, so let’s save that advice for another chat.

And if you’d like to work out with ALINTA THE GURU, here’s her details. Get ready to feel fantastic!

Alinta's business card