The Curriculum of Public Speaking

It doesn’t take much to crush the spirit of a young child at school. There are bullies, unthinking teachers, parents being parents all providing real-time feedback limiting every risk a child takes. Until it becomes easier to just avoid risks. (Or do it behind their backs)

But speaking to an audience is all about taking risks.

When I was growing up, there was a girl in my class who was confident speaking to any adult, any audience, any time. It was no surprise that she was chosen to be an official tester of toys for Toys R Us. Such was her level of articulate confidence. I was so jealous. I wanted that job.

I found out later that she’d been going to public speaking classes after school. That’s where she got her confidence. The lessons had given her so much self-assurance. Opportunities like Toys R Us came her way.

Most classrooms don’t provide the opportunity to star as a speaker. It’s not the teacher’s fault. It’s not really the curriculum’s fault. It’s the environment. When someone in the class starts to stand out by speaking up or taking a lead, their classmates aren’t impressed. They are impressed if you’re a sports star, but not so impressed with displays of personal skills. Nerd!

I remember winning speech competitions at school via some obscure opportunity to speak about the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Society. That was the only option available to become a super speaker.

The only other opportunity to become a super speaker at school was if you became a prefect. You got a bit of practice then. Sometimes.

There should be more.

Speaking confidently to any audience is such an important impactful skill to have. It wins you jobs, it advances your career, it brings in connections.