October 25

I should have posted this yesterday but fell asleep. I have no excuses, really. It was just a long weekend. I took five teenage girls on a road trip to the first speech tournament of our newly formed team. It was at another community college almost three hours away. I was nervous going, being the only one responsible for driving us all to a place I’d never been before. It had also been a long time since I’d been a part of the speech circuit, so I was hoping that what I was expecting was still going to be accurate. It ended up that it was. It was a busy tournament schedule, rounds starting almost every hour from noon on Friday to 8 pm and then again from 8 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday with the awards ceremony following. I had to judge numerous times, rounds my team weren’t competing in, so I didn’t get a chance to witness everyone’s performance on my team. That was ok; I worried that my presence would make them nervous anyway. Because this was so new to them, I was more anxious for them to watch and learn from others with more experience. As a teacher, I know sometimes that what I try to explain to students doesn’t sink in as quickly as witnessing or experiencing things firsthand. And there were a lot of really good speeches and performers to watch. It’s so inspiring to see these young people with so much talent. Especially the ones competing in impromptu, during which they are given a quote they’ve never seen before and have 7 minutes to prepare and deliver a speech on the spot. Impressive. Or the ones who memorize pieces of stories or poems and deliver it with all the gusto and emotion of actors on an empty stage. Moving.

Maybe this will sound bad, but I knew my team wasn’t going to walk away with first place trophies. And not because they don’t have talent, but because they weren’t ready. Most of them had only practiced a few times prior. Only a couple of them even knew one another since I had a hard time getting everyone to meet at the same time beforehand. All of them were either in their first speech class this semester or had taken only one class prior. So really my goal for them was to walk away excited to try harder, knowing what to expect. And I’m happy to say that did happen. They couldn’t stop talking about the people they had met and the great speeches they had heard. They discussed techniques and what they liked or didn’t like from what they had seen. And when one of them actually made it to a final round, they were extremely excited and supportive of her. When we left campus Friday, these kids were unsure strangers, but they returned on Saturday, new friends with a bond and a common goal. I’m really grateful for that.

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