Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Shhh. (02/18/10)
By Phee Paradise
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I can hear exclamations of sympathy even before I turn around to look at the class. I smile and shrug, then turn back to the board to write a message about homework. It’s speech day, so I don’t have to talk anyway. After taking attendance, I pick up the speaking order list and hold it out to the student closest to me.
I try to say, “Would you read the list?” but I’m not sure she hears my whisper. She looks around and then points at herself. “Me?” she asks, her eyes getting big.
I nod and hand her the list. “This is the speaking order,” she says and reads the names quickly. She doesn’t stand up or turn around. I’m surprised, because she didn’t seem nervous when she gave a speech last week.
While the first speaker goes to the computer to open his PowerPoint presentation, I take my evaluation forms and stopwatch to the back of the room. There’s a glare on the screen that makes the presentation hard to see. I open my mouth to remind the speaker to turn off the lights, but he doesn’t hear me. No one hears me. I walk over to the switch and do it myself.
The rest of the speeches go pretty well, and I don’t have to talk. When class is over, I point to the door. The class understands the message and they hurry out, telling me to feel better as they go.
Over the weekend I drink a gallon of hot tea with honey and prepare my own PowerPoint, in case my voice doesn’t come back by the next class. I plot how I will get the students to read it aloud and discuss the lecture.
In the morning, I croak goodbye to my husband and feel hopeful that I’ll be able to lecture. Six students still have to give speeches, then I’ll take the podium. They ask how I’m feeling when I walk into class and comment on the quality of my voice. I manage to make myself heard when I read the speaking order list, then I take my place in the back. The assignment was to give a four minute speech, so they should be done in half an hour.
The first speaker carries a bag of props to the front. After taping drawings to the board, she takes out a plastic tablecloth and covers a desk. One by one, she takes paint, brushes, and a tree branch out of her bag. She gives another student a cup and asks him to fill it with water. She chatters about the items as she lines them up on the tablecloth. I wonder when her speech is going to start. Finally she nods that she is ready and I press the stopwatch. Ten minutes later she is still chatting about folk art, as she puts the finishing touches of paint on the branch. After challenging the class to make some art themselves, she cleans up while the next student loads a PowerPoint.
At the end of the next two speeches, I smile at the stopwatch. They ended right on time, and were well organized, too. These students will get high grades. The next speaker walks to the front carrying a lifeguard float which he straps to his shoulder. He begins to talk about how to be a lifeguard. Then he talks about how to save someone who is drowning. Then he talks about how to become certified. Then he tells a story about someone he saved. Then he tells the class how to do CPR. Then he talks about the water park where he works. Then he tells the class that they should all be lifeguards. Finally he takes a breath and says, “That’s it.”
I look at the stopwatch. Twelve minutes. Then I look at the clock. Class is almost over and there are still two speeches to go. I think regretfully about the PowerPoint I prepared. I can finally talk, but my students aren’t going to let me.
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