Rennaisance Recap and Public Speaking

So, as I had said before, I was doing this thing in my daughter’s class

I was dreading it and predicting that it was going to be bad, and my expectations were pretty much on the money. LOL! I had really freaked out a few days before doing the presentation about how awful I knew it was going to go, and was even offered a way out. They offered to have someone else do it for me – but I couldn’t take it. I don’t know, maybe I should have. But I felt that backing out, especially so late in the game wasn’t fair to anyone and set a bad example for my daughter. But at the same time, what did I teach her by getting up there and doing such a poor job. Even if it wasn’t my own fault. I did do my best, but in this regard, my best is probably the average person’s worst job. I’m not saying that to be hard on myself – it really has more to do with my issues on public speaking.

Before I went in there, a friend of mine asked me why I was so afraid – I mean, after all, they’re just kids. But it’s not fear that’s the real problem. I’m not afraid of the kids. I’m afraid of myself. I’m afraid of the fact that when I get up in front of people to speak, I simply lose the ability to put words together and make a coherent sentence. I’m not kidding. I’m not good at thinking “off the cuff” anyway – but it’s even worse when there’s a crowd. The more eyes on me, the less I can function. It’s really pretty annoying. But I think it’s something I’m going to have to come to terms with and accept and ultimately turn down anything that involves my getting up to speak in front of a group of people. I wish I could, I love the idea, but the reality is it’s just not something I can do. Under any circumstance.

A few years ago I was asked to be on a panel at SXSW. I turned it down. I sort of regretted that decision, but I’m thinking now maybe that I was right. Again, I love the idea of being able to get up and speak. And certainly there are some benefits tied along with it – becoming more well-known, being able to share some of my thoughts and knowledge with others. But in the end, I don’t think the good things I want will come from it. I forget where I read it, but someone was saying how they never wanted their “15 minutes of fame” – they never wanted to be on a reality TV show – because the fact of the matter is when it comes right down to it – you have way more to lose than to gain.

So while the kids didn’t pay attention, I had trouble making sense of what I wanted to say, and they probably absorbed not even the tiniest bit of what I had hoped to pass on to them – I at least learned something about myself. If I don’t have a memorized script – if every step isn’t planned out precisely – I do not belong up in front. End of story.

Of course, after recovering from this whole mess I was saying over and over “never again!! never again!!!” – I quickly realized I will have to get up in front again. Right at the beginning of the school year, the teacher had asked me to come in and talk about Hanukkah. This has become a near yearly ritual that I have come to dread and when possible avoid. Of course, since Rachel is probably the only Jew in her school, there may not be many opportunities to expose these kids to cultural differences so I feel obligated to do it. But I’m thinking I will need to either heavily involve the kids in the presentation and/or have them read things to the class and/or I will have a word-for-word script memorized beforehand. I guess knowing the real problem is half the battle.

2 Comments

  1. Gillian
    Nov 19, 2009

    Oh, Jen, so sorry that the teachers left you so unprepared and sorry it caused you such angst. FWIW, I sympathize…

  2. Jennifer
    Nov 19, 2009

    Thanks Gillian. Had the final presentation today. Basically just having the kids paint. Of course, the “good” brushes were already taken, so I had to hand out these huge brushes to have the kids paint little tiny portriats (?!?) It was totally crazy. They kept asking for smaller brushes, and I’m just like “don’t have ’em – do the best with what you got!” – Ugh. I used to think this program was so great – now being on this side of it I realize how awful it is! LOL! I’m just so glad the whole thing is DONE!

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