Raise of hands….who dreaded Speech Class? If you were in my office right now, you would see me typing with one hand high in the air. I was in 5th grade and my speech teacher was Mrs. Boles. For our first assignment, we had to give a 5 minute demonstration speech. I was so excited because I knew exactly what I wanted to demonstrate. I went home and asked my mom to take me to the store so I could buy a variety of veggies. I planned to demonstrate how to make a veggie tree. Some of you may be asking yourself, “What in the heck is a veggie tree?” Well let me tell you, it is a thing of absolute beauty and wonder. (I have included an image below for your enjoyment.)
I had all of the veggies cut up and ready to go. I had my notes carefully written out on 3×5 cards, and I practiced in the mirror over and over. I was so nervous that I decided it would be difficult to construct the entire tree AND talk at the same time, so I went ahead and put most of the veggies on toothpicks. Then the more I thought about it and the more nervous I became, I figured I should go ahead and push the toothpicks into the styrofoam cone, since it would probably make a lot of noise while I was trying to talk.
The morning finally came for me to wow my classmates with my demonstration speech. The entire speech took 1 minute and 30 seconds because I had basically put everything together at home, leaving me a whole lot of time with nothing to demonstrate. It was the first time I had ever earned a D on anything.
When I reflect on my own children’s private school education, public presenting is probably one of the things for which I am most thankful. Just like here at CFA, my children were able to start presenting their ideas in front of classmates when they were 3 years old. Because our students have so many opportunities to present informally and formally throughout their time in Lower School, public presenting becomes a real strength for all of our students. One of my favorite places to hear students present is in the LE2 classrooms. I love that they are given time to build and create structures and then the entire class listens to them explain what they made, how they made it, and why they built it. Public presenting starts out in low-risk scenarios like the LE2 Block Center, where they can present among people they trust. All through LS, they gradually gain comfort and poise communicating. Sharing about blocks seems like such a little thing, until you see how this specific skill builds all the way through Lower School and culminates with 5th graders presenting a product they have designed for Biz World. It is AMAZING!
I know that if I had been given the opportunity to present earlier and more often, 5th grade speech class wouldn’t have given me so much anxiety. I celebrate the extra opportunities our Lower School students have to become comfortable and confident presenting their fantastic ideas and the cool things they learn at CFA.
Stephanie Medcalfe is the Lower School Director at Cape Fear Academy.
Stephanie and her husband moved to Wilmington from Indianapolis, Indiana where she was the Assistant Principal for Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. Stephanie has taught in both elementary and middle schools and has been a Special Educator. She graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.E. in Educational Administration. She is responsible for the Lower School Faculty and the After School Program.