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Chatterbox: Stepping up to the microphone


Students around the world are educated in harmony with common sense. In this nation, we often fly in the face of it. For example, despite the evidence, and against science and personal preferences, we still send our children to school at an hour of the morning that has been proven to negatively affect learning.

Being a dedicated educator is the greatest calling on earth, but even devoted teachers can only function within the regulations set down for them. Today, there are necessary fundamental life skills being lost to legislation and personal opinion, and being downgraded by that addictive, unforgiving master – technology.

Additionally, we have back-burnered or removed many basic skills. Most are critical, such as writing and reading script, perfecting instant math, personal communication, necessary behavioral conditioning and living in harmony with all people and the planet; each enhances accomplishment and advances our nation.

American students used to learn these essentials, which have been cut from classrooms over the last few decades. Some are more imperative than ever as our graduates increasingly compete on an international level. Most American students will become employed. Many will go on to compete in this new world on a global stage, and their education must be a competitive one, that includes these essential life skills, however simple. Even for those who don’t attend college, what they will need to survive a simple life on the daily should be taught so as to be second nature. For most of us, public speaking isn’t number one, but we must know that daily speech and public speaking are not the same.

At Chatterbox, we’ve talked about public speaking before. Many of us have realized (possibly painfully) that it should be taught in all middle schools, and perfected through experience in high schools. Currently, it’s not a specific focal point on either level in America. It is, if anything, only a part of courses that groom students pursuing careers in which it is an imperative skill. Yet, almost all our students will address a crowd, personally or professionally, many times in an average life.

The necessity of learning public speaking skills is obvious to any speaker hopelessly watching his/her audience cringing, sleeping or leaving. It’s also painfully obvious to anyone who has ever listened to speakers who shared endless lists of names, statistics, detailed specifics shared chronologically, or whose garbled words faded in and out.

The first time speaking to a crowd, anyone can be paralyzed with fear; only education and practice will result in coherent, enjoyable addresses. Whether a trophy winning athlete or national office holder, whether birthday congrats, wedding toast, or presenting or accepting an award, there are always speeches required somewhere and, formal or familial, little can turn applause into a yawn and a golf clap as fast as a novice at the podium.

With a pinch of practice and armed with even just a basic understanding of the ABCs of public speaking: audibility, brevity and clarity of content, anyone can articulate, use a microphone properly, and be sufficiently informative and interesting while remaining brief enough to not empty the room before closing time.

Most people agree that nothing can be accomplished without good educators and America’s future rests on maintaining a good educational system. Now, we must agree on what is essential for that system so that our children will be adequately equipped to be competitive around the world. Many skills that may seem the most banal so as to be learned just by being alive, simply are not. With less daily exposure to imperative, repetitive skills, many, from making change of a dollar to talking live with a friend, are evaporating.

We are failing our children. Too much of what was fundamental is being deleted from the dinner table and erased from the blackboard and, as simple or unimportant as it may seem, that includes the simple task of being heard.

I have a family member who holds a position that requires him to do press conferences regularly. I was privileged to witness one of his many, focused and imperative public speaking training sessions. It was incredible to see the issues most of us understand from our own simple experiences as audience members being addressed as part of a high level government program.

Still ... why? It should be so elementary ... school.