Monday, May 28, 2012

Speaking of Speaking

Just breathe... you've got this... you talk to kids every single day... this is exactly what you want to be doing...

For whatever reason, when I agreed to be the sole speaker at the Chaparral High School spring pep-assembly and prom event, I had no idea that I was going to end up taking things so seriously. Not that I didn't think that this speech was a big deal or lacked importance, but rather that I gave speeches like this on almost a daily basis in my own classroom.

However, rather quickly as the date approached I became more and more anxious in what it was that I was to deliver to these extremely impressionable, yet judgmental minds. The weekend prior to the event, I was recluse and cranky. I couldn't quite figure it out. I wasn't there yet and I, by no means, had 45 minutes worth of worthy material to offer.

But somehow it came together. At some point I realized that I know this demographic really, really well and I knew just exactly how to reach them.

I needed to not only to show them what I went through, but on some level I needed them to go through it as well. I needed the kids to feel things that they didn't want to feel and experience things that they didn't necessarily know that they wanted to experience.

To make myself feel better, I found myself making a special purchase of a silken floral top with splashes of sunshine and confidence... I longed to feel the part of what I was trying to emit within the spacious auditorium.

As the morning of the speech came, I had grown to embody the confidence that I had wished for. I practiced my speech during my own practice--a relaxing morning recovery swim to ease both body and mind. Everything was serene and calm.

Focusing on my breath carried me from the pool to the school as I unloaded all of my various "props" strategically secured in the largest bag that I could find (my ParaPan Am luggage). Students greeted me with a smile and directed me to the silent gym, soon to be flooded with kids just excited to be out of Geometry class for the day.

After being introduced by one of the students, I wheeled to the center of the gym and for a brief moment thought back to my trial-and-error basketball days. I took in a deep breath and began by asking the kids to close their eyes (as I crossed my fingers). I didn't know if it would work but I wanted them to imagine their individual lives at that moment-- among tests, and driving to school, and staying up too late to study, and wishing it was lunchtime or summertime...

Looking among the crowd, a sense of pride and excitement spread across my face. Every single student in the auditorium had their eyes closed... they were listening. That's how I knew that what I was doing was right, and good, and important enough.

So, I kept talking... and talking, and telling my story. And they kept listening and wondering until my very last word.

I put my whole heart and soul into that speech that day and truly believe that I did some good for those hearts and souls who were listening. And as stressful as it was in getting to that point, I would love the chance, any chance, to feel that again.

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