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Juniors and Fear of the Tongue

A new semester has begun, and, being the mean teacher that I am, I have assigned my Juniors an informative speech due at the end of this week.  The assignment is simple enough: Find information  to share with the class on a college, trade school, military branch or other after high school alternative of your choice using three different resources. Present a 3 to 5 minute speech  on your findings.

And there it is, the unavoidable groans and the faces turning slightly green with the idea of having to speak in front of the class. The arguments and promises that this is going to be horrific for all involved:

A whole 3 minutes?!?! Mrs. Bone, you must be crazy! That’s, like, forever! 

But I’m no good at giving speeches!

I am so going to do bad on this assignment. 

What if my speech is really boring?

And yet, the assignment stands because this is something that I feel passionately about. Students need to learn how to speak formally in front of a group. They’re all going to have to do it someday whether it’s at a job interview, during a college admissions process, or at their future jobs. Every single one of these students is going to have to know how to appropriately speak to another human being whether they are running for president, or asking if you would like fries with your meal.

It’s not that they don’t ever speak in my class. Quite the opposite actually. My class is comprised mostly of whole class and small group discussions. Something about standing up at the head of the class all by themselves is what sends my students into a tizzy. It’s not that they don’t know how to speak in front of their classmates, they do it every day when they shout across the room or participate in class, it’s that they don’t know how to speak FORMALLY. They lack the confidence to get up on their own and speak with conviction about something they have researched all by themselves. They are afraid of screwing up, using too much slang, forgetting their speech, saying umm far too many times, of sounding like an idiot. What if they sound like an idiot?!?

Well, what if they do? It won’t be the first or the last time that they will make a mistake when speaking to people. Yes, it probably will be a little embarrassing, but honestly, how many people are going to catch, or even remember the mistakes anyway? How many people sitting in that classroom are going to care that a classmate mispronounced a word, or took a bit too long of a pause when presenting? Why do so many of them suffer from selected glossophobia and how do I fix it?

My first instinct was to remind them that they speak in front of each other every day. To try to get them to understand how important and applicable public speaking was going to be once they left their little world of high school. I knew I could talk until I was blue in the face on the importance of learning to speak well, and the fact that it was okay to mess up a little, and they wouldn’t look or sound as bad as they had it made out in their heads, but none of the encouraging talk from me was going to be as good as showing them.

The other teachers and I put our heads together and decided on a plan of action. We would show the students a video on someone who was a terrible public speaker. It had to be someone they could relate to, a young star that most would recognize, that some would like. And it hit us: Kristen Stewart. Because she’s awful. Just seriously awful. Really.

So, we found this awesome article (with great video examples!) to present to the class in powerpoint form: http://www.thegrindstone.com/2012/06/04/career-management/dos-and-donts-strategy/10-things-we-can-learn-about-public-speaking-from-kristen-stewart-597/

And turned it into this awesome powerpoint: Kristen Stewart – Public Speaking (1) (Yes, we sited the article and told the kids to make sure they were not plagiarizing and that we didn’t plagiarize, etc.)

And told our students that they couldn’t possibly be any more embarrassing than that. The students loved it, and it actually made sense to them. Their selected fear of the tongue seems to alleviated for now, and I feel like a successful teacher for the day.

Until next time,

Kayla

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