Education, Motivation

I’m Not a Very Good Public Speaker – Yet

I don’t usually write posts on the weekend, but I know people tend to read this blog to find resources for their classrooms, so I don’t want anyone to feel cheated by me sticking a reflective piece in the midst of my weekday posts.  I’ll be back on Monday with more ideas to engage your students!

Poll my family and my close friends for my biggest weaknesses, and I can tell you exactly what will top the list – cooking.  I have never been and never will be a genius in the kitchen.

But that isn’t because I wasn’t born with some kind of Iron Chef gene.  It’s mostly because I really don’t want to learn to be a good cook.  Cooking doesn’t interest me.  And, if I didn’t have a family, I’d be fine with eating cereal for dinner every night.  Since my husband seems to enjoy the process of making a meal almost as much as he enjoys disassembling the kitchen three times a day, I’m more than happy to leave the whole thing to him.

Now, I’m not saying that I could rival Julia Child if I just put my mind to it, but I certainly think I could get better than I am right now – if I wanted to.

It’s all about that Growth Mindset that I’ve been preaching to my students.  Not everything will come easily to you, but if you have the motivation to work hard at getting better at something, you will.  It’s easy to say, “I’m just no good at math,” and accept that it’s just the way you were born and it will never change.  But it’s the lazy way out.

I don’t aspire to be a great cook, but I do really want to become a better public speaker.  Like many teachers, I have no problem speaking to a large group of students, but I get paralyzed in a room of my peers.  I hate that about myself, and I refuse to accept it.  The logical part of my brain tells me that this fear is ridiculous, yet the rest of my body apparently takes issue with that.

The other day I had the opportunity to speak in front of a pretty large group of people.  It’s a bit of a blur, but I am pretty confident that I did not put my best foot forward.  Afterward, I assured myself that public speaking is definitely not my calling – and I need to just accept that and stop putting myself in positions that require it.  In fact, I was thinking the best option would be to just lock myself in my house and never show my face in public again.  Just thinking about that possibility gave me a sense of calm and amazing optimism.

But then I felt like a hypocrite.  Because I’m always telling my students to step outside their comfort zones.  And here I am sneaking my way back into mine – and making a plan to build a brick wall around it.

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Yep.  The casket sounds a lot better than the podium to me.  I could be wrong, but that’s not really the attitude that I’ve been preaching to my students.

So, I’m not ready to accept defeat.  I’m going to keep trying.  I have some messages to share about education, and I would like to be able to deliver those messages without dissolving into a sweaty puddle of paranoia.

I don’t have any delusions that I will become a great speaker.  Some people really do have that gift, and I am not one of them.  I also don’t have any delusions that I will lose the fear.  I listened to a great TED talk recently about a singer, Joe Kowan, with stage fright.  To conquer his problem, he did the logical thing and made himself perform even more.

It didn’t work.

But Joe didn’t give up.  Instead, he wrote a song about stage fright., and continues to perform despite his fear.  He actually uses all of the awkwardness of his problem to his advantage in the song.  Here’s an excerpt:

“♫ I’m not joking, you know, ♫ ♫ this stage fright is real. ♫ ♫ And if I’m up here trembling and singing, ♫♫ well, you’ll know how I feel. ♫ ♫ And the mistake I’d be making, ♫ ♫ the tremolo caused by my whole body shaking. ♫ ♫ As you sit there feeling embarrassed for me, ♫ ♫ well, you don’t have to be. ♫ ♫ Well, maybe just a little bit. ♫ (Laughter) ♫ And maybe I’ll try to imagine you all without clothes. ♫ ♫ But singing in front of all naked strangers scares me more than anyone knows. ♫ ♫ Not to discuss this at length, ♫ ♫ but my body image was never my strength. ♫ ♫ So frankly, I wish that you all would get dressed, ♫ ♫ I mean, you’re not even really naked. ♫ ♫ And I’m the one with the problem.”

I’ve got a few other ideas to try before I employ Joe’s method to deal with my problem.  If there is anything that I can imagine to be more intimidating than speaking in front of a large ballroom full of people, singing to them would top that list.

But I’d rather do either one of those than cook.


6 thoughts on “I’m Not a Very Good Public Speaker – Yet”

  1. I got a kick out your post, Terri. I feel a kindred spirit in regards to the cooking thing. That just does not interest me one bit, but like you, I have a husband and son still at home that would like to eat.

  2. Terri,
    I was in the audience that day and I could tell you were nervous. Having presented to large groups many times and knowing how you were feeling, I was silently rooting for you. As you shared, I could tell your nerves calmed. You had great things to share & the people in attendance learned from you things that will potentially positively impact kids. Focus on that and don’t give up! Keep sharing and speaking!

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