Welcome back to Students Speak Up! If you haven’t tuned into our posts before, my name is Julia and I am a sophomore in college who has the opportunity to write blog posts once a week featuring my experience as a student/how I learn best/cool resources that myself and some other students love!
Today I would love to speak about a specific skill that I am so thankful to have learned early on in my educational journey that I know some students do not get to learn until later. This skill can be so terrifying to learn that, according to some studies, many people would literally prefer death rather than taking part in it. You’ve probably guessed it by this point---the skill that I am referencing is...
Yep. That’s a tough one to learn. It certainly was for me and my siblings, at least early on.
However, I am fortunate to have had teachers at every grade level who incorporated presenting so naturally into every class that by the time I got to college I knew exactly how to calm my nerves beforehand and strategies for when I messed up mid-sentence. I had received critiques over the years on how to become a better speaker in general, so I was aware of my nervous tics and vocal patterns that I fell into. I learned it all so gradually that I was able to improve over time instead of having to essentially fly blind by the time I got to college.
To this day I can still conjure up the extremely nervous feeling I used to get before every presentation, whether it was in sixth grade right before I had to present for twenty minutes on the Philippines to my whole class and parents, third grade where I gave my “how-to” speech on how to grow flowers in front of my peers, seventh grade where my partner and I performed our memorized Spanish dialogue for the first time in front of the class, tenth grade when it was my group’s turn to present our “Ted Talk” in front of peers, parents, and the school board----I even still got that same gut-clenching feeling when I had to act as Thomas Jefferson in my European History class role-play during senior year of high school.
However, had it not been for these experiences so early on I would not be able to be confident that I can still present effectively when it really comes down to it, even if I feel physically nervous beforehand.
For my business major in college, I was required to take a Communication Strategy course where essentially the entire class revolved around us taking turns and giving speeches in front of everyone. Every time right before I went, I got that whole-body shaky feeling and worried that my mind would blank, but I knew the breathing techniques to do beforehand and I knew from experience that I could push through.
I remember someone I know telling me a story about when he was in sixth grade and running for “treasurer” of his student council. He campaigned, made posters, and practiced his speech for a week beforehand. However, when he got up to the little podium and was faced with kids, parents, and teachers, he froze up. His mouth got dry, his tongue felt like it couldn’t move, and he was paralyzed with fear. Yet he somehow managed to make words come out, get through the speech, and he realized that he could, in fact, do it----even if it was awkward for a bit there at the beginning. He gained more confidence and a couple years later was even selected as one of the students to present a new learning technique to the school board.
From my perspective, the earlier that presenting practice can start, the better. I can’t remember much about early elementary school, but I do know that I was outrageously shy and terrified of speaking up at all---my mom used to call my teachers ahead of time and literally warn them about my extreme shyness. But somewhere along the line that changed, and I realized that I actually really enjoyed public speaking, so much so that I joined the speech team in high school along with theater. There is no way that I would have discovered that passion, come out of my shell, or even had confidence that I could do it at all if I hadn’t had so much practice over the years.
So, I encourage you, even if you feel like all of your students hate presenting and fear it more than anything (I certainly did for a while), they might be really grateful in the long run that they had that practice!
Thanks for listening to me today for our Students Speak Up post, and I can’t wait to see you next week!