Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Slice of Life - Public Speaking

Today in reading class we refamiliarized ourselves with the non-fiction portion of our classroom library. No matter how often I book talk amazing non-fiction books, my students continue to gravitate towards fiction. And I understand that, but I don’t want them to miss out. There are so many truly amazing non-fiction books; we just have to keep discovering them.

So today we began by grabbing a basket for each table and diving in. Teams explored each basket, flipping through books, and selecting just one per table to share with the class. A spokesperson from each table came to the front of the room, placed their book under the document camera, and shared with the class why they thought it was a book worth noticing. Students around the room recorded titles on their To Read list at the back of their notebooks, and the next person would come up. No big deal, right?


In each class I had students – brave students, brilliant students – tell me they were afraid to come forward. That it was scary to talk to the class. These weren’t necessarily my shy reserved kids, but students from all groups. I think if I was another teacher, I wouldn’t get it. There was no pressure – hop up, give a quick blurb, sit back down. But I get it. Just as being a reader and writer gives me a different perspective on how to teach reading and writing, being a person with anxiety about public speaking helps me see these kids.

Talking to one of the boys about speaking to a crowd, he confided that it terrified him. I looked him in the eyes and said, “It terrifies me too, and I’m doing it again tonight.”

I think he thought I was nuts. Well, let’s be honest, they all think I’m a bit crazy on a regular basis.

Tonight I was asked to come speak to the PTO about the referendum on the ballot for our school district this November. A friend chided me on this engagement, said I’m volunteering for too much. Trust me when I say I was not volunteering to speak in public, I dread it that much. But I keep doing it. I already know I am speaking again at NCTE in November, just forty-five days away, not that I’m counting. So I shared with this fabulous kid that information, my speaking engagement this evening, the one coming up, and said I knew he could do it.

He looked at me with complete confusion and said, “Why would you do that to yourself? And you hate to fly; you will have to fly in November? Why?”

I smiled and shared my secret. I refuse to let anxiety hold me back, to keep me from doing things I want, or need, to do. I refuse to let it rule my life. I will speak in public, fly in planes, even though I’m terrified. Each time I do, it is just a little bit easier.

Isn’t this all part of building relationships with our kids at the start of the year? Letting them see through the armor we wear as teachers. Letting them know we have fears and flaws. When we show them that we are human, they begin to let us in.

I can’t wait to see my students tomorrow. To let them know I did it and it was great. That my audience was, as always, so kind and caring. They didn’t mind my red cheeks as I spoke, or that my voice shook a bit. I will tell my students that the audience’s kind eyes and nodding heads helped me as I spoke so they can remember to do that for their classmates, and then we will move on and find some more amazing non-fiction books. There are so many to discover on this journey together. What a year it will be.

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers.