I just finished a residency at McCormick Middle School in Wellington Ohio working with the sixth graders. We worked on writing and public speaking. Another stellar bunch of kids – a little on the quiet side but very thoughtful – take a close look at all their faces – each one tells a story.
This is what I hoped to get across to this gang. We all have stories, ideas and opinions and each one is important. We talked about public speaking being the number one fear of humankind and that the root of this fear is probably just the fear of being embarrassed. I also explained that in over thirty years on various stages I have never seen anyone die of mortification.
I explained that if they don't learn to speak up there are plenty of other folks out there that would be more than willing to speak for them. Of course this second bunch of folks will only have their own interests as an agenda. Silence is tacit permission. And if you let someone else do all your talking for you – sooner than later you just become angry. Quiet – but angry.
Seems there are just a few too many adults out and about that never learned this lesson – people too worried about looking foolish, being embarrassed or "upsetting the base" to speak up when they have something important to say. Others let themselves be shouted down by bullies who exploit this ingrained fear of standing in the open.
Hopefully the sixth graders at McCormick will know better. They're a smart bunch of kids and I'm interested in what they have to say.