Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks, Ten Years Later

As a public school teacher, I'm on my feet in front of a group of teens for at least half of my work day. I have absolutely no issues presenting ideas in front of a large audience. I have no issues being the center of everyone's attention for a purpose. It recently occurred to me that I wasn't always this ballsy.

Nearly ten years ago, I was an awkward, bumbling nerd giving a speech in front of my 10th grade English class. This class required every student to give informative, instructive and persuasive speeches throughout the year. There were minimum time requirements for each speech. We even had to come dressed up on speech day. My English teacher, Mr. B, would tally the number of times I'd blurt "um" and "like"  throughout my speeches. Needless to say, this was a challenging class that often scared the shit out of me.

One of my most vivid memories of the class is nervously shaking behind the podium, clutching my index cards tightly as I tried not to make eye contact with any of my classmates. I was speaking at 200 miles per hour. For most of my speeches, I was a wreck. I actually can't believe I had forgotten this about myself. I had a problem of speaking too fast - for an eight minute speech requirement, I'd be done in five minutes. For a five minute speech requirement, I'd be done in two [insert premature ejaculation jokes here]. After receiving a low B on my first speech in Mr. B's class, I remember thinking, "Shit, I'm not going to get straight As this semester. My mom is going to kill me." Don't forget, I said I was a nerd.

It's funny how times (and people) change. I can yap for hours now in front of others without hesitation. It also doesn't matter who the hell I'm yapping to: students, my principal, or even Mario Cuomo (funny story for a later time). It's taken me ten years to realize that I have Mr. B's class to thank for my confidence and public speaking ability.

Better late than never. If it weren't for this class, I might not have been so comfortable being the lead singer of a rock band later on in high school (funny story for a later time). Or taking leadership roles in student organizations in college. Or becoming a high school math teacher.

How ironic that I went through these last few years having under-appreciated my own teacher. As I'm just starting to learn, part of what it means to be teacher is being okay with the thank yous not coming instantaneously.

Thanks Mr. B.


Mark said...

Thank You! This really came at just the right time. I've been teaching for 15 years now- but I still have the moments of doubt. This helped! So, thank you:-) Best gift that I've received in years!

Yo Mista said...

No problem. I should have thanked you a long time ago.

I was in a bookstore a while back and saw "The House on Mango Street." Made me think of your class and what I got out of it. I hope things are well!

Alpha Za said...

great post bud, that is true, we don't appreciate our teachers until long after they are out of our lives.

have one of your students tally the number of times you say Um or Like in Class. It should be an interesting exercise.

naqiya said...

@ alpha za: i absolutely promise you - he absolutely NEVER says um or like when he talks. in fact i was shocked when he told me he used to! saying um and like is my job now!