This morning, I got up early and wandered DC practicing my speech. I have really struggled with what I wanted to say as an oratory fellow and when I finally had words, it was Thursday night at about midnight. Friday and Saturday were a blur of activity and we were told about 18 hours before the performance what teachers were presenting. When Cynthia announced my name she said, "Time to but your big boy pants on." Her sweet-natured way of letting me know I needed to get over any doubts or worries I had and get to work. She doesn't know what a gift that was. Every time I would go into an emotional death spiral, her voice was in my head!
It was chilly this morning and so I went underground, into the Metro to practice. I wrestled with where to breath and how to say this or that. What gestures felt genuine and how my posture was either giving or pulling energy. I had been practicing and pacing--bad practice technique. A speech is given stationary and so should be practiced stationary. So I did. As I spoke, people stopped and listened. When I was pacing, no one paid me any head. There is alot of talking and pacing going on in the metro part of DC. I was in good company. Stationary speakers is a different thing. IT was one of the most surreal experiences -- I think people thought I was preaching. I guess I was, sort of.
After my sermon in the Metro, I cleaned up and headed to a fellows meeting. The goal of the meeting was to dream big. What would oratory education look like? What should it look like? It was a great conversation and I left encouraged.
After the meeting was the performances on Ford's stage.
I tried to make sure every moment was seared into my memory.
Justin was first and he was amazing. It has been fun to watch him grow as a speaker. He is a naturally gifted speaker and has a lot of experience on stages, so that is a head start. But he has worked so hard on the Gettysburg Address and it was a joy to watch.
Cameron headed up the second half and to quote one of the teaching artists, "He hit it out of the ballpark!" Again, like Justin, Cameron is both gifted and experienced and had this speech at a 9...this weekend it reached a 10+.
I was so proud of both of them.
The other students did well too. Several fellows are English teachers and so some of the original oratory prompts were from books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Petey, and Chasing Lincoln's Killer. The interesting thing about these were that the novels were merely the jumping off point for speeches on finding the joy of life in all situations, practical ways to address teen depression and suicide and reconciling who you are with that the world says you are. There were biographical interpretations as oration of Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Dr. Mary Walker and John Wilkes Booth.
The whole trip home, I kept going back to a quote for Cameron's Lou Gerhig speech:
Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?
That is what I feel. I am so proud of the work done this weekend. By students, fellows, parents and Ford's staff. Yesterday was an example of teaching, learning and leading at is best. I'm finding myself feeling greedy ... I want more days like this as a teacher! Now my job is to look for and develop moments where that can happen again. Look for the thunder clouds and head toward the lightening to see if it will strike twice. Its a task and it takes you out of comfort zones and into moments of frustration with yourself, your collegues and your charges. It can be physically and emotionally draining.
But the reward...the reward is so worth it.