semi circle

When I was invited by my high school alma mater to guest teach two classes on public speaking, I was ready – or so I thought.

I brought along my “10 Simple Steps to Becoming a Confident Public Speaker” and some activities to challenge students. I thought I could teach them a few things from my experience. It turns out, the experience taught me a few things too:

·        Rearranging the classroom can change a student’s perspective.  When I was in college, my speech professor traded the impersonal rows of desks for a more engaging semi-circle. It made sense. So with a little rearranging, the students transformed the room. Being in semi-circle allowed them to better interact; to focus; to feel part of a group; and to know that they – and their voices – mattered.

·       Students have limitless potential when given the chance to discover it. We did an activity called “My life as…” Without looking to see what it was, students reached into a bag and selected an object, then did an impromptu one minute speech on their life as that object. Monica pulled out a box of crayons and brought it to life by describing what it felt like to be sharpened, worn down by kids, and to have her clothes torn in the process. Then she begged the question, “And why is it that I have to be in this box with all the other crayons?” Her enthusiasm and “out of the box” creativity earned her a standing ovation.

·       Like a box of crayons, every student is unique and so is their style of learning. In another exercise, students were paired up to interview each other on either an event or a person who influenced their life and then had to give a short speech to report it. Chris struggled with this one, telling his activity partner that his life’s influence hasn’t come from a person, but instead from a fictional game character. He was given the freedom to share the character’s role in shaping his life. Chris’s crayon wasn’t black or white.

·        It’s a light bulb moment when a student “gets it”. I soon discovered that not only does the student feel a sense of achievement when a task is mastered, the teacher does too. To see a student gaining confidence along the journey of the lesson is like watching a flower in bloom. It’s a blessed event.

As the bell rang and students headed out, I couldn’t help but think of the magnitude of the task for every teacher. They have an awesome responsibility in preparing a generation of students to go out into the world to lead and to make a difference.

It was a day and a lesson I’ll never forget.

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