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Help! I am Surrounded by Glossophobes: Project 180, Day 114

Yesterday, we began facing our fears. Apparently, nearly 75% of the world’s population suffers from the fear of public speaking, but the kids’ and I didn’t need statistics to back up what we already knew to be true. Kids, people, rarely embrace the opportunity to stand and deliver to their peers. In fact, they generally hate it.  And yesterday, the kids reminded me of that.

Of course, I didn’t need much of a reminder, for even though it has now been nearly thirty years ago, I remember all too clearly–and painfully–the “F” I took on a speech in 11th grade because I was too afraid–really, just unprepared–to stand in front of the class. Mrs. Amsden was terribly disappointed in me. Heck, I was–still am–disappointed in myself. But the fear was real. So, I do not dismiss it out of hand when my kids share their fear and reluctance to speak publicly. But, I do not let them get out of it either. It’s important. And it’s one of those things that one cannot simply get better at without doing. So we do it, but we do it differently.

Last year, upon posing the question, “Why are people so afraid to speak?” I had a huge Aha! moment when Danica broke it down for me.

“Here’s the deal, Sy. You guys give us one or two major presentations/speeches per year; you make it worth a gazillion points; you give us a rubric that requires a Ted-Talk level of performance; and you don’t give us any real support. You just expect perfection. And then you wonder why we generally suck, and why we generally hate it.”

Ouch. Knife in. Couple a twists. That one hurt. But it hurt because it was true. And at that moment, I vowed to never again “score” a kids public-speaking performance. Oh, I would certainly give feedback, but I would not penalize them with a grade for facing their fears, for trying to grow. More importantly, I vowed to give them lots of opportunities to practice with feedback, so they were less-anxious during the real performance. Consequently, as some will remember from last spring, I had the pleasure of witnessing many great speech performances, many of which I shared with you. And so, this year, I am taking a very similar approach, hoping my kids grow in this important area by diminishing their own anxiety with speaking publicly.

And so, yesterday, the kids had their first of many to-come opportunities of standing and delivering in front of the class. They had to prepare 5 statements that revealed some of their beliefs, values, convictions, and/or ideals. Killing two birds, I had them produce a simple sentence, a compound sentence, a complex sentence, a figure of speech, and a threepeat. They had to publish each statement in marker on printer paper. Then they had to select one of two options for presenting: share without speaking, or share with speaking. In addition, as they took the stage, they had to share their anxiety level by indicating  a number with their fingers. 1 = low/no anxiety. 2 = moderate anxiety. 3 = high anxiety.  And we got to work. We got about halfway through the roster, and today we will wrap it up. No Ted Talks. But the kids got up and they delivered. Baby steps. Fear is not overcome at once. It takes time, and it takes some trust. I have some trust building to do in this particular arena. Thankfully, last year, Danica helped show me the way.

Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend.


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