Public speaking has
one of my passions.
Competitive oratory in high school.
Rhetoric major in college.
I liked to talk and
I was good at it.
I guess it’s because I found
talking AT people a lot
safer than talking
Teaching feeds my passion.
The part of me that makes for a good teacher?
That’s the public speaker in me.
I’m compelling… but I can also be
I keep my students
laughing so much
they tend to forget
that they are learning.
Today we had a “Speech Invitational” at school.
Can you guess
who was the
We normally have mandatory
speeches once a month.
Which are like having
mandatory root canals.
Forcing people to speak
on dry topics they know
Let’s just say…
that it is as painful for me
to watch that
as it was for the students
who were unfortunate enough
to actually have to
I got to combine my passion
and it gave birth to
I suggested that we make
this month’s speeches
by invitation only.
I thought to invite students who
actually excel at public speaking
or those who have expressed
a desire to practice public speaking…
or even those quirky characters
who have unique literary voices
who would probably have a lot to share.
And then I sent them a hand delivered invitation.
The turn out was great.
I invited twenty-two students
with varying degrees of ability —
and while three of them had
unavoidable conflicts and couldn’t
Everybody else did it
We even had three people
who weren’t on my list
prepare speeches that they
I was beaming like a proud
parent as each student
took to the podium.
Our shy English Language Learners
went first… and surprised us all
by their choices of topics
and the clarity and poise
in which they delivered their
There were students
who presented original poetry…
or essays that they had written
on such topics as “friendship” and
“ethics” and “attitude.”
One young man came into our program
about two years ago totally introverted.
He barely said a word the first
few months in my class.
Our program has been a challenge for him.
He struggled through the death of
his girlfriend last year
and the depression that followed.
How much he has grown
in a year.
He got up and shared a really
inspiring poem that he’d written
about “Life” and what it means
to him while challenging us all
to consider “Life” and what it means
But the one speech that spoke to all of us…
came out of the heart and the mouth
of a slim young woman with shy doe eyes.
She is very much afraid of public speaking,
but eagerly jumped at the chance to practice.
This girl, who is much loved by everybody,
stood up there in front of the assembled room
and gave a speech where she dared to dig deep
into her own pain and suffering to share with us
a glimpse of that human condition called, “Loss.”
She started crying.
Softly at first… while valiantly
wiping away the tears
in her determination
to complete her speech.
She started crying harder as the words
on the page took root in her heart.
I know that she hadn’t expected this.
She’d probably practiced it over and over
in the mirror
and in front of friends…
And had no idea
that she would be
“killing herself softly
with each word.”
I thought she would stop…
that she’d run out of the room
and I’d be unable to follow
since I was the emcee.
But she stood her ground.
She read not one,
but two poems that
showed the entire room
how much her losses
were affecting her
and now us.
In her courage,
she made us all feel.
As she spoke,
Today I felt like I passed on a torch to my children.
They caught a glimpse of the passion.
Public speaking is my passion.
It has always been a way for me to
connect to the world outside
my Bipolar Bubble.
Writing keeps me isolated
It, too, is my passion…
but it is a dance that I
By definition it forces me out
of my bubble and into the world.
My students got to feel that today.
Doesn’t have to be dry.
It doesn’t have to be scary.
It is a means to connect with other people.
It’s an avenue to expound upon
the human condition.
Using the voice that God gave me???
That is when I feel truly alive
and today, by invitation only,
my students got to feel that too.
They got to step out and connect
with other people; expound
on the human condition;
feel the adrenaline rush
that makes you feel
and they got to own
Some were shy.
Some were bold.
Some were funny…
…and then some made
the entire room
heave a collective
Today was Day 82 and I helped my students connect…expound… feel… and own their voices. And it was good.