Public speaking, heights, and creepy crawlies – did you know that these are often cited as the top three fears of many adults? As we begin our spring term, at least two of these will be encountered by our students as the playground comes back to life and our perennial public speaking season arrives. Bugs and critters aside, a commitment to oratorical skill development has been a longstanding feature of the language program at Matthews Hall. Each year, many of our students demonstrate that standing in front of a class full of peers to speak is a welcome and comfortable task. And for those who do not feel at ease immediately? We practice, support, inspire, and dig deep. I mean if most adults find speaking to a group to be a bit daunting, the least we adults can do is cheer them on!
It is true that most children feel some nervousness and fear when they are asked to come in front of an audience to speak about something. This is quite common for most students. Generally, only a few people can comfortably face such situations feeling completely at ease. But in this age of persuasion and collaboration, every child should develop at least a working comfort level expressing themselves in front of a group. To develop confidence in this skill, they require direct instruction, effective modelling, and lots of practice.
Like any formal communication skill, some will have natural abilities and confidence. This is true of skills on the ice, in the pool, at the keyboard, or on the track! However, having the opportunity to develop a natural speaking style in front of a group takes time, lots of repetition, and feedback. Each year, we work with our students to provide these supports in formal and informal settings, and in large and small groups. By the end of their Matthews Hall years, we aim to graduate capable and confident Middle School speakers who begin high school with all the skills necessary to ensure their voices are heard, respected, and appreciated!
The skills that your children will acquire through public speaking opportunities will naturally enhance different areas of their lives. Most school, college, and universities require some form of oral presentation, so if your child has a strong public presence, they will be prepared to tackle many tasks – in school and in their future lives – without undue stress.
Why do we value this for our students? To begin with, great speakers have a way of gathering admiration and support. It’s no coincidence that many of the most influential leaders of the past are known to this day for their memorable speeches and presentations. However, many were not naturally great speakers or presenters – they worked hard on these abilities and acquired confidence and competence through training and study (just like any other skill!).
If your children are working on speeches this spring, cheer them on! They just might be the next voice of reason that our world desperately needs!
Ric Anderson, Head of School