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Speeches and Reflections
Over the course of the last two academic years, this blog has highlighted Proctor's approach to teaching public speaking a number of times. Last winter, the English department hosted Jay Heinrich, an expert on rhetoric, and sponsored the Hays Speaking Prize, while this post discussed the importance of facing your fears in the classroom.

As Winter Term gets underway, the English Department once again gears up for its annual Hays Speaking Contest. This year, English teachers have sponsored Timothy Mooney's visit to campus Thursday night to present to the community, his one-act play, "The Greatest Speech of All Time!". During this performance he recounts the ten greatest speeches, according to a Google search, while discussing the power of a great speech. Mooney describes the origins of this one act play in the short video clip below:

For Proctor's AP Language students and sophomore American Literature students, Mooney's presentation falls directly in line with the material they will be studying this year. Mark Tremblay, who teaches both AP Language and American Literature, notes, "Timothy Mooney's visit to campus evolved out of our desire, as a department, to study speeches, both from a delivery and content basis. In many of our classes, we have read the speeches that Mooney presents in his one act play, analyzing both the history behind each speech and the power of the message delivered."

As noted earlier this fall, opportunities for public speaking have increased in recent years due to English teacher Peter Southworth's efforts to launch a senior speaker series through which twelfth graders share their perspectives on a variety of topics, ranging from their time at Proctor, to life changing events, to social commentary.

Each of these speaking opportunities further develops the art of crafting an effective speech. In my classes, I continually tell my students that the most important skills they can develop while in high school lie in their ability to effectively communicate through the written and spoken word. When we help students learn to organize thoughts into coherent, well-planned arguments, we open so many doors for them: in their educational journey, in their college options, and in job opportunities after college.

A significant part of this teaching process, and a foundation on which the Hays Speaking Contest is built, relates to self-reflection. It is only when students take time to think about what they believe that they can effectively communicate those thoughts to others.

In a digital age where instant communication through microblogs, email, texting, and social networks dominates student content generation, we must provide intentional opportunities for them to slow down, reflect, and dig deeply into what they are really trying to say. After all, FDR, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, and the other speech givers highlighted in Mooney's presentation Thursday night were not originally delivered without significant time for reflection before hand.
While public speaking is a significant fear for many, opportunities abound for students to practice these skills. Through the theater program perhaps?
English and Social Science classes both spend considerable time teaching appropriate public speaking demeanor: eye contact, tone, pace, inflection, content.
Peter Southworth has been instrumental in promoting public speaking at Proctor, launching the highly successful senior speaker series two years ago and being a champion of the Hays Speaking Contest.
Thursday evening, Timothy Mooney offered the community his one act play, "The Greatest Speech Ever!" highlighting the ten greatest speeches of all time. Photo Courtesy of: www.timothymooneyrep.com
The message to our students: great speeches do not just happen...they take time to plan, organize, and rehearse. Therefore, providing our students the opportunity to slow down and reflect before writing their speeches is an essential part of our English curriculum.