I was thinking of different ways to both introduce students to members of their community, so that their is more community engagement, and public speaking. The idea that stood out the most is one that placed emphasis on involvement from all members of a school community.
Students, starting at a young age, would present in front of their teacher(s), classmates, members of the school’s parent/family community, and members of the school’s external business and working class communites. But it wouldn’t stop there. Students would then conduct both Question-and-Answer and Roundtable style discussions on the presentation topic. This would provide students an opportunity to engage in a more deeper conversation about their presentation topic, while it simutaneously lets them know that other people want to engage in that conversation as well.
To be clear, the non-teaching community members would not be critiquing students nor would they provide public speaking or academic feedback. The non-teaching community members role would be to help instill a since of engagement and provide students with different perspectives through the comments they make and questions they ask. At some point, the roles would reverse. There would be a chance for the more traditional scenario of ublic speaking in schools: non-teaching members of the commnuity would present something to students. The teaching community would be their to provide feedback after the presentation but also to facilitate the presentation.
Some might think that allowing people, who are not trained to provide constructive criticism to children, would do more harm than good. Afterall, the community grocery owner or accountant may only think in numbers or may not know how to be more sensitive to young children’s feelings when providing qualitative feedback.
This is a valid concern and one possible solution would be to have a trained public speaking teacher work with each participating community member who is not a part of the professional teaching community. they’d go over best practices and responses to students, tone, face expression and a brief interview to determine their overall fit for such an activity.
I know. This sounds like a lot of time and money spent on training. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of weeks that I’m trying now putting to paper/post.
But, one thing is for sure: we need to start students engaging and caring about quality public speaking at a young age and continue the engagment throughout their academic careers. One key attribute is tapping into the wide community net that surrounds the school community. This makes room for different perspectives and the exchange of ideas that goes into talking to someone outside of the school community. Another key attribute is high quality teacher training. Though it may be expensive, if we want our students to be strong, confident speakers, we as a community need to invest time and money. Period.
The idea behind all of this is to have both students and members of the overall community interact, challenge and learn from each other, while giving students the platform to express themselves. Hopefully, along the way, students pickup on softskills, in addtion to their ability to spot faulty and sound arguments, as well as thinking about some worthwhile feedback, questions and comments they received throughout the years.
More to come.