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Monday 26 March 2012

Value Public Speaking - Find your Voice

As a child I was shy.

No really, there was a phase when I wasn't so... 'not shy.'

I was a bit of a 'tom-boy' until Grade 3, and then I was teased a lot because of my birthmark that covered most of the left side of my face. Add to that the fact that our family moved a lot and it isn't shocking that overall, I just didn't bother to not be shy, it was just easier.

By about grade 5 we finally stopped moving every year and I decided it appropriate to come out of my shell. My new school was half way through the 'Public Speaking' unit when I arrived, and though I had very little interest in speaking in front of these new classmates, I wrote a speech and was shocked to be chosen to represent our class at the school wide assembly.

From there, further shock came when I won for my grade level and was selected to move on and present at the district level. I placed second there, lost to a clever speech on toilet paper, but my confidence grew and looking back it was the kick-start to my continued habit of speaking to groups.

As a teenager, I became an advocate of for youth chairing the local Teen Committee and hosting the first ever 'Youth Week' in the lower mainland. I was chosen to speak with, then Premier, Glen Clark, at the Provincial opening ceremonies for the event.

Friends were never shocked to hear me speaking in front of groups, though I never thought of myself as a 'public speaker' I still get nervous, I still wonder if anyone even wants to listen and if what I have to say is important to anyone but me, but nevertheless, I speak up.

Last year as I taught grade 6/7s public speaking, I saw mixed reactions and abilities as they prepared and presented. I shared with them my experiences starting from grade 5 and outlined why I felt public speaking was important.

As a teacher we speak to a group of students every day. I think those skills developed years ago are still used daily in our classes. But we have a voice and we need to feel empowered to use it.

Next week I am presenting with a colleague to the local board as I have in the past at the budget meeting.

Earlier this year I presented at the Provincial Bargaining table.

At the AGM I have braved the mic

I have put on workshops and spoken to colleagues numerous times and still use (or try to use) those skills I learned in grade 5... stand tall, speak slowly, don't fidget, articulate, breathe, make eye contact....

I have a voice, and I have learned its power.

Public Speaking IS an important skill and I am so glad it continues to be practiced and celebrated in schools. I only hope more teachers recognize their voice and use it during this important time.

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