This week is our school’s Speech Arts Competition. It was introduced at a staff meeting with the hopes that all classes would participate. Some teachers are enthusiastic, some are not participating, while others (like myself) are using it as an opportunity to focus on oral language skills. I am presenting it to the students more as an opportunity than a “have-to”. There are kids who are thrilled to create or memorize a poem, add dramatic flair and share it with the class. There are others that are anxious about selecting a poem, being able to memorize it, and having to present in front of their peers. Despite emails of worry from concerned parents of the anxious children, I continue to remain calm and relaxed about the process. It is the process that I want the children to learn from. If a few of the students are too nervous, they can recite their piece to me quietly when students are working independently. This option has eased their worry, however I am sure that when the time comes they will be fine, as a sense of community and support already exists within the group.
There are so many opportunities at our school for those who are confident expressing themselves in writing, visual art, or sports. I think that the Speech Arts Contest will appeal to those students who have abilities in oral language and drama. There are so many forms of expression, yet children are often presented with the same options. As teachers, we need to look for opportunities to explore other options and to provide students with a multitude of languages for self-expression, whether it is sculpture, nature, music, or math. I have one student who is often invisible in group discussions. Yet, if I play music or show a video with music, her face lights up, she moves to the beat, and she becomes the most visible.
With over 30 teachers and 500 students, our school buzzes with activity and events. It can be overwhelming for some (like myself) to participate in all the opportunities that are created by various staff members, such as growing seeds and tending our school garden, attending the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, participating in food drives, or sending Valentine’s to the Senior’s home, in addition to your own class trips and activities. However, I have realized that these are opportunities for the students to experience forms of expression beyond what I may provide in the classroom. If you can connect these opportunities with your own plans (such as graphing for Data Management during the food drives), the learning and the experience becomes authentic.