Public speaking is a terrifying notion to many people. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once mentioned that more people are afraid of public speaking than of dying, which means that if you were at a funeral the majority of the people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. This does not have to be the case, and it involves instilling confidence in young students.
Before young people begin school, parents are their primary teachers. Parents should do their best to fill their children with a sense of pride and self-worth well before they attend school. The earlier the better when it comes to confidence. Public speaking can be daunting to a lot of people, so the better prepared they are, the less intense the situation will become.
Once in school, teachers need to help develop public speaking skills in their young students. The ability to stand up and be heard is just as important as the ability to sit down and listen. A person that stands for nothing will fall for anything.
Teachers should not allow children an easy pass when it comes to class participation. Each child should be called on regularly, and should be expected to provide some form of verbal answer when asked a question. Enabling a child to get away without answering a question aloud is sending them a message that is detrimental to their emotional and mental health and well-being. The child should be encouraged to stand up, face their peers and orally respond. This will build confidence.
Integrity should be reciprocated between teacher and student. An engaging dialogue should be commonplace in the classroom.
A simple way for teachers to help instill confidence and develop public speaking ability is to have topics of interest at the forefront. Similar to show and tell, older classes should still have the opportunity to speak about items of personal interest. This can vary from new movie releases at the theatre to the latest video game to dominate the market. Children need to be heard; they need to know that their voice is understood, recognized and respected.
Teachers, with the consent and permission of all necessary, should videotape the children in the class giving some form of report on a topic of their choice. The video can then be shown to the class in a few unique ways. First, the class can listen to just the audio portion of the presentation and make notes on things such as awkward pauses, clarity, pace, delivery, volume, and so forth.
After this, the class can watch the video without the audio, which will allow everyone to see things such as body language and other forms of non-verbal communication. Things such as eye contact, posture and gesturing, swaying, fidgeting, and other distractions can then be worked on in future presentations.
Praise should always be at the forefront of any teacher’s repertoire. Children need validation. They also need criticism, but it should only be constructive, and given in a positive manner. A child that does not want to speak publicly will become even more fearful if they are ridiculed or made to feel inferior.
Teachers can also allow students to dramatize readings, which allow the students to become somebody else. Wearing a mask, or putting on a façade, gives students a form of carte blanche to step out from their own body and pretend to be somebody else. Sometimes living inside their skin is torturous, and a momentary reprieve just might be beneficial. The laughter that ensues from role playing may also give the student a jolt of acceptance from their peers.
Respect is a two-way street. If a teacher gives respect to the students, the students should in turn give respect to the teacher and the other class members. With respect, the ambiance surrounding things such as public speaking may lose a bit of their edge, and may become a tad more attainable.
The ability to speak in front of others and to do so with confidence is a skill that will come in handy for the rest of a person’s life. The sooner that students learn to be comfortable within their own skin, the better prepared for the future they will become.