A Pennsylvania Elementary School Works to Eliminate the Fear of Public Speaking
by Howard Vogel, Principal
previously experienced in The Learning Counsel on October 30, 2017
When teaching the 21st-century skill of communication, many schools focus on reading and writing, but spoken communication is just as important to students’ success in school and in life. Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, affects 75% of our population. In some cases, this fear has the power to keep students—or educators—from achieving their goals.
As an educator, being comfortable speaking in front of people is an essential part of my job, but I used to suffer from a fear of public speaking—so much so that I actually delayed my student teaching to avoid speaking in front of others. As an educator who has overcome my glossophobia, I now have a personal mission to give all my students the confidence to speak and share their thoughts in front of others. This emphasis on public speaking also builds students’ social-emotional skills by teaching them to listen respectfully when others are talking.
To help curb students’ fear of public speaking, teachers at my school use handheld microphones and the Lightspeed Redcat audio system multiple times a day to give each student the opportunity to speak and be heard by the entire class. Students use these microphones during morning meetings, when reading out loud, and when doing mini-presentations.
Creating a Supportive Environment
Not only do the students love speaking into the microphone, but teachers love that students are attentive and engaged. Audio systems help create a more effective experience, not only for the students but for the teachers too.
Prior to classes using handheld microphones and the audio systems, students would speak out of turn and blurt out answers to questions, disrupting the flow of the class. Now, students who wish to speak know they’ll get a turn but must wait until they have the microphone. On the other hand, students who used to fade into the background now have a chance to put themselves out there and confront their fear of speaking out loud.
Changing Lives, One Word at a Time
At the start of the school year, I remember one particularly shy student who was extremely reluctant to speak to the teacher and his fellow students, let alone in front of the entire class. Over the course of the school year, his teacher encouraged him to speak using the microphone. I watched him blossom into a confident young man who was ready and willing to share his ideas out loud. Exposing young students to public speaking at a young age gives them confidence, and some never even develop a fear of it.
Over time, I’ve noticed that students in classrooms with audio systems pay more attention, behave better, and are more engaged. Students are motivated to share their ideas out loud, which helps build their confidence and overall achievement. By empowering students to share their thoughts, we are encouraging a positive learning environment, increasing engagement, and giving every student a voice.
Howard Vogel is the principal of J.M. Grasse Elementary School in the Pennridge School District in Perkasie, PA. Follow the district on Twitter @PennridgeSD.