Anastasia (14) is a keen fencer. But despite her combat skills, she used to find the classroom intimidating. Thanks to the Achieve programme, Anastasia has been able to fight through her fears about joining in and speaking up.
Today, Anastasia is thriving at school in Athens, Greece. She’s confident about asking or answering questions in class, joining in discussions and presenting her ideas.
But Anastasia used to get stressed and anxious about speaking in public. Too shy to contribute in lessons, she would only speak if the teacher addressed her directly. The Achieve Greece programme has helped Anastasia develop the skills and confidence to join in and make the most of her lessons, leading to better grades.
‘I realized that my anxiety was holding me back and I took courage,’ Anastasia explains. ‘And now I participate more in everything.’
The benefits of groupwork
The Achieve programme is delivered in schools by specially trained teachers. Launched in Greece in 2022, with our partners The Tipping Point, the programme offers practical, activity-based learning in small groups, along with live sessions from mentors. It aims to help students develop the soft skills and confidence they need to thrive at school and in later life.
‘We did a lot of work together in groups, not individually like in class,’ Anastasia recalls. ‘I really liked the activities we did. My favourite was a presentation based on what we learned from the mentor in the previous lesson. We had to present as a group.’
Anastasia explains that she’d never previously done any groupwork activities, and that they gave her the chance to develop her communication, listening and leadership skills. With lots of practice discussing and presenting, Anastasia gradually built up her speaking skills and confidence – and was able to take these with her into her mainstream lessons.
‘I’ve stopped worrying as much as I used to. I’ve stopped being too shy,’ she says. ‘I used to be very shy about presenting in class, now I do it very comfortably. There’s no reason to be anxious and afraid.’
Beyond anxiety: free to achieve
Anastasia explains that she no longer worries about what her classmates or her teacher might say when she speaks up in lessons, partly because she feels more confident, partly because she now recognises that negative comments are unlikely, and partly because she understands that any feedback is aimed at helping her learn.
To complement her advancing skills, the Achieve Greece programme has also supported Anastasia to build resilience and develop strategies to cope with stress. ‘They told us that stress is something you can deal with, and it doesn’t have to scare us,’ Anastasia explains.’ I realized that I must internally try to calm down, try to calm myself. I’ve used those skills in class presentations – and in fencing matches.’
No longer so fearful of making mistakes, Anastasia has been freed to step outside her comfort zone to try new things, and to learn from them. Her newfound growth mindset will stand her in good stead throughout the rest of her time at school, and beyond. She’s now keen to share her insights with other young people.
‘I would tell them not to be afraid to try new things,’ she says. ‘No one will judge them if they make a mistake. They don’t need to be shy and closed off.’