Advertisement

Three points on speeches

September 06, 2013|Lisa Prejean

All this talk in the local news about graduation speeches has caused me to smile.

As a high school teacher, there are several reasons why I find this situation amusing.

First, I think it is odd that any school would make the valedictorian and salutatorian “audition” for speaking roles at graduation. These students have worked four years for the right to speak at this special ceremony. Why wouldn’t they have that privilege? 

If the issue is one of speaking ability, why haven’t those students had an opportunity to practice before now? Students should be giving speeches in class, for contests and to community organizations. How else will they be prepared for the presentations they will need to give in college and in their future jobs? 

High school students should consider participating in programs such as Poetry Out Loud, the VFW’s Voice of Democracy speech contest or the American Legion Constitution speech contest. These help to refine speaking skills and would prepare a student for a speech delivered at graduation.

Advertisement

Secondly, one of the issues being considered is when the valedictorian and salutatorian should be selected. If they are selected based on grades at the end of the third marking period of their senior year, their GPAs could change before the end of the final marking period. If a school administration waits until the end of the final marking period, that doesn’t give much time for the students to write their speeches, for the graduation programs to be printed and all those final details to come together.

The question really deals with how much time a student needs to prepare a speech. I think most honor students should be able to create an effective and entertaining speech in a few days. 

If given more than a week or so, most students will procrastinate until the deadline, anyway, so the extra time really won’t help. Besides, students are being required to write 20-minute to 40-minute essays on standardized tests. 

They need to learn how to formulate their thoughts quickly while communicating effectively.

(Pardon me while I answer this text. Oh. It was from a student who has an English 101 essay due tomorrow. He’s working on it now and had a question for me. Last-minute work? Nah. He’s only had the assignment for a week.)

Third, the administration needs time to review a speech. Because I’ve previewed several graduation speeches in the last few years, I know that this process should only take an hour to two per speech. It takes a little bit of extra effort and flexibility to get this done at a very busy time of year, but it is feasible.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I mean no disrespect to the school board members contemplating this issue. I’m quite fond of two of them in particular because they are former teachers of mine. (And they were wonderful teachers, by the way.)

My only point is that honor should go to whom honor is due. Figuring out how to do that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail’s Family page. Send email to her at lprejean@schurz.com.


The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|