Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Elocution, My Dear Watson!

Originally uploaded by Tim Morgan.
I was holding a workshop the other day for a local business on how to use PowerPoint. This time I had some of our regular students sitting in. Afterward I had one student ask me how I learned to speak so well in front of people. Did I belong to Toastmasters?

First off, it is very nice to be complimented on your speaking skills, but I have to say as a teacher, you better be able to speak in front of a group. If you can't, you are in the wrong profession. Years of standing in front of a classroom teaches you to always be on your toes for questions and hecklers. It is a very simple: sink or swim.

However, that doesn't change the fact that public speaking is usually listed as most people's greatest fear, followed by death. In other words, most people would prefer to be in the coffin then speaking at the funeral. I am not sure why there is that fear, what causes it, I just know I have rarely experienced it. Mark would just chalk it up to the fact that I love the sound of my own voice above all others. Me, I think it has to do with the five years of elocution I took. Elocution now call elocution Speech Arts, is the study of formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style, and tone. For an example check out this clip from Anne of Green Gables.

From the time I was ten until I was 15 I took weekly lessons. While other kids took piano I memorized poems, and sections of literature, and worked on repeating them back in a meaningful manner. Every year I competed in the Royal Conservatory's annual competition. In my last year of elocution, I won the Conservatory's gold medal, getting the highest grade in all of Canada on my level exam. But no 15 year old wants to be learning poetry and reciting it, so I finally convinced my mother to let me quit. I now regret I didn't continue on. But the fact still remains the benefits of this training have paid dividends in my life. I have no fear of speaking in front of crowds, I know how to prepare a speech, and I can improvise when needed. It is a wonderful skill to have.

So next time you think about putting your kids into music lessons, why not consider speech arts instead? Trust me, they will use it a lot more in their personal and professional life.

No comments: