Last week I had my annual trip to the fancy dinner honoring the retirees of my school district. I’m actually on the local union scholarship committee. We present fifteen $1000 scholarships to high school seniors that are sons or daughters of union members. This year I presented eight of the fifteen. I’ve done it for the past three or four years. I can’t remember how long I’ve been doing this. I’ve been to this dinner several times. My dad is on the Retirement Board and goes each year. At least one year, my mom was sick and I attended in her place. The first year I attended was because my dad was awarded the prestigious award that is given out to someone who has had a large contribution to our local teachers’ union. That was even before I was a teacher.
Being that I’m single and have the same last name as my parents, I do run into some interesting situations. Most of the time they’re good. I’m lucky in the fact that my parents have good reputations for their work in the past and present. My dad is the one who is most well known because of his union involvement and being on the retirement board for several years. Since I’m not as well known in my own right, I’m sometimes thought of as the “date” or the accompaniment to the man. I actually had a place on the program and was speaking in front of the few hundred people at the event. But apparently when they were doing the seating arrangement I was just F’s daughter. Not me – member of the scholarship trust and current teacher in the system that has a purpose for being there that evening. Whatever… I’m cool with it.
The funny thing that I realized after doing my little part of the program is that I like it. It doesn’t bother me in the least to get up in front of a few hundred people and speak into a microphone. I have lots of practice. I’m the announcer at all of our home gymnastics meets. I know to get my mouth up close to the mic so I can be heard. I think it’s the worst when someone is using a mic and you can’t hear them because they don’t realize this. I know that my tone of voice is very important and to be careful to convey the right emotion. If I screw up I know it’s not a big deal and I just act natural. I don’t like reading from a script, so I have the basics in front of me and ad lib the rest.
My first experience with public speaking was when my dad retired. I was the designated kid that spoke at his retirement party. This is probably because I went into the same profession and actually worked with him in the same school. As I said in my speech, it was “take your daughter to work day” for a year. I was incredibly nervous about giving the speech. I put off writing it until about a week before the event. Since my dad was quite well-known, there were lots of people from the district at the party as well as friends and family. It was a big deal. And I did a great job.
Who knew? The shy little girl who never wanted to be in the spotlight was pretty darned good when she was in the spotlight. I think the experience of speaking at my dad’s retirement party was one that prepared me well. How many people can say that public speaking doesn’t bother them? Not many. In fact, I kind of get a charge out of it.
I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I’m center stage in room 211 every day. When you think about it, that’s probably a tougher audience than a bunch of adults at a dinner. If you’re unsure of what you’re saying, they’ll pick up on it. Teenagers are probably the most critical audience you’ll ever have. So I guess I’ve had pretty good preparation.
But the thing I find interesting is that I didn’t really figure this out until now. Me? Like public speaking and being in the spotlight? I’ve always thought of myself as someone who blends in and is never the center of attention. What am I going to do with this new-found knowledge? I don’t know. I’m open for suggestions.