Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The four year old's 40 minute "speech"

The four older children of our family are involved with a Youth Leadership Program : a public speaking club for children that Will and I co-lead. While Nathanael and Joanna were busy preparing their icebreaker speeches, Emily was listening intently. After all, what's so hard about talking about yourself? So, she proceeded to start her own speech. It went something like this.

Hi, I am four years old. My name is Emily Webber Joy. (Why she always gives her middle name after her last name is still a mystery to me..) And I like a lot of things.

I really like sharing, and I don't like people who do not share. (Wow, this must have really made an impression on her!)
My favorite class is art, and my favorite food is macaroni and cheese. And apples. I really like apples. And on and on she went. When someone tried to say something, she would insist, "but I'm not done yet!!" and just keep going.
I think her first audience lost interest because she came in and gave me the entire speech again, adding new details each time. It's amazing that a four year old has so many opinions, likes, dislikes, favorite colors, hobbies and everything.

Fast forward eight years.

At age 12, all of a sudden, it's impossible to come up with something to say outloud in front of a group. Our 12 year old was struggling to even fill three minutes worth of material about himself!! I am assuming that all of this frenetic speech preparation is what brought on Emily's great desire to copy their speeches and make one up for herself.

And he wasn't the only one struggling. All the kids in our youth leadership class are learning the nitty gritty of public speaking. And yet, it's nothing compared to what it would be like if adults were in there.

It seems like the older you are when you start, the harder it is. Maybe we should be like Emily--just go on and on about whatever, pretending we're sitting on our mother's lap and everything we have to say is just the most amazing, funny, and clever thing that's ever been said--and just get over the fear of it.

What's the worst that could happen? That we feel foolish? Oh, that's going to happen anyway. That we get some negative feedback? We could all use a little of that here and there. That we never get any better? That's not going to happen either. As soon as we try, we know the next time will be better. In fact, each time you speak publicly, it gets a little easier and better.

So, what would you say if you had to fill 3-5 minutes about yourself, in the form of a speech?

Would you relax and just let it flow? or would it be hard to figure out what to say?


Collette@Jesuslovesmums said...

I used to hate public speaking at school! When I was young I was terribly shy. I could probably fill 5 minutes or so now but then I just hated it so much.

Love Collette xxxx

sara said...

I so like the idea of imagining being on Mama's lap just chatting. I think I'd pretend to be in my Grandma's kitchen. She's always such a good listener and makes me feel like everything about me is interesting. She disagrees with me from time to time but all she says about it is something like, "hmm. I guess so" or "maybe you're right." Thank Emily for me. :)

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Go Emily!

I remember taking speech class in high school. I was the only freshman (getting it over with) in a class of mainly upperclassmen, and mainly GUYS... who had put it off until they were coming down to the wire for graduation.

We actually had a great time. I was so much younger (and a total geek!) that they kind of "little sister'ed" me.

When I get nervous I talk faster. Once, during a speech, the guys in the back actually held up signs:
"S-L-O-W D-O-W-N!"

DarcyLee said...

I took one speech class in high school and that's because I couldn't graduate without it. I was the quiet and shy one. Nowadays, I think I could do it although I probably would start out feeling and sounding nervous. But, if I did it regularly, I think I could get pretty good at it.

Becky said...

I would probably be okay with public speaking. I can't really imagine being terrified, but then again, I've never addressed more than could fit in a school auditorium anyway. The first time I had to speak in front of that sized crowd by myself I did ask my teacher, Mr. Brown, to walk out there with me. He smiled, said yes he would, and then left me there by myself to do the rest. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but then again, I was there to tell them what they were supposed to do, and my family has always said I'm bossy.

Mrs. Parunak said...

I bet I could think of what to say if I had time to prep. My big fear is having to talk without time to think first. That's why I like writing so much. I get to say what I'm thinking about, but I get to think about it before I say it.

Organizing Mommy said...

Becky: it sounds like you were the valedvictorian? or something important in high school?

Sara: I like the thought of being on Grandma's lap in her kitchen.

Julie: sounds like a fun way to have a class. Were they cute guys??

Herding Grasshoppers said...


Oh yeah.

But I was so much younger, and a total geek, so there was really no hope along those lines :0)

Probably a good thing, in retrospect.

Ironically, in my freshman foolishness (aka zeal to get some of my less favorite classes out of the way early,) I had not only signed up for speech, but also a PE class.

Not really caring which one, I chose one at the end of the day, so I wouldn't have to shower at school, but could just go on home in my gym clothes.

I think it was called "Speedball, Soccer, and Basketball", and a number of the guys from speech class were in the PE class too! In fact, I was the only girl.

Turned out to be lots of fun. They went easy on me.

Hadn't thought about that for years.


MommaMindy said...

Only 3-5 minutes? C'mon, I'd be just revving the engines. I was in extemporaneous(sp?) public speaking in high school, they gave you a folder of information and one hour to prepare, and you talked for 5-10, if I remember right.

I wouldn't want to talk about myself, though, could I talk about my husband, or my kids? Or, maybe you could give me 3-5 minutes and MAKE my husband and kids listen?

I have struggled with not talking so much, learning to be a better listener, learning to choose my words wisely to be a benefit and a help.