Talespin Children

Step up and speak up

Twelve-year-old Aman was sitting in the empty classroom, his head on the desk, his cheeks wet with tears. He looked up as he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. Jacob Sir, his Maths teacher, was standing there.

“What happened, son?”

Aman stood up quickly. “N…nothing sir!” he stammered.

“Then, why are you sitting in an empty classroom and crying? Is there anything wrong?”

“Sir, I participated in the inter-class elocution competition today. I worked very hard. But, after a few sentences, my mind went blank. I stood there, gaping at the audience. Out of 14 contestants, I stood last. It was humiliating.”

“How serious are you about becoming an effective speaker, Aman?”

“I am desperate, sir.”

“Okay, from tomorrow after lunch, we will meet in my room. I will help you.”

“B…but sir…you?”

“Why, a Maths teacher cannot teach the skills of public speaking?” Jacob Sir smiled and walked out.

A new start

Aman discovered quickly that Jacob sir was as much an expert in giving tips on debating, as he was in teaching algebra.

“Aman, how did you prepare your speech?”

“Sir, I asked Javed of Std. X to dictate the points and memorised them.”

“Never do that. Even if you take someone’s help, write down the speech in your own words. Don’t memorise because if you forget a phrase or even a word, then, everything goes blank.”

Aman nodded.

“Public speaking is both a science and an art. The content of your speech is the science part. Your style, presentation, voice modulation and how you manage to mesmerise the audience is the art aspect.”

This was the beginning of a fascinating series of sessions Aman had with Jacob sir, who illustrated his points with several examples from great orators, as well as his own successes and failures. After each session, he would give Aman an assignment. He was a taskmaster and did not tolerate even the slightest slip up.

As the session progressed, Aman found his confidence growing.

“Aman, this Sunday, I will be going to Ashiana, an old-age home, which is near your house. I want you to address the members on ‘The value of empathy’.”

“Sir…b….but do you think I really can speak in front of senior citizens?”

“You have no choice. We will meet at Ashiana at 11.00 a.m. sharp.”

Aman had just two days to prepare. He worked hard, wrote and rewrote his speech half-a-dozen times and practised it front of the mirror just as Jacob sir had taught him. At five minutes to 11, when Aman entered Ashiana, he was led to a huge hall, which was full. Jacob sir was sitting in the front row. He saw Aman and said, “Don’t worry. This is no competition. You speak from your heart and forget about the rest.”

Ten minutes later, Aman went to the podium. He was sure everyone could see his shaking legs. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and started. He stuttered a bit, paused thrice, stammered a few times, but didn’t stop. He finished to rousing applause.

“Aman, the Rotary Club of Jayanagar is organising an open elocution competition for students from Std. VI to Std. XII. I have entered your name. It is this Saturday. This will be your toughest test yet.”

Twist in the tale

Aman’s jaw dropped. “Sir, do you think I am ready?”

“I am not asking you to win the trophy. I only want you to do your best and enjoy yourself.”

There were nine contestants. and the topic was ‘Artificial Intelligence: A boon and a bane’. Aman prepared his points carefully and went through his speech a few times. Just as the competition was about to start, Jacob sir appeared and sat in the third row.

Aman was the fifth speaker and thought he spoke quite well. But even he was surprised by the result: he was placed second. The first was a boy from the local club and the third was a girl whose face looked familiar. As Aman collected his trophy and went to Jacob Sir, he found the girl talking to him.

“Congrats Aman, meet Sharon.”

Seeing them together, the truth dawned on Aman. “Sir, is Sharon your daughter?”

“Of course! Can’t you see the resemblance?” Sharon said, laughing.

“But, sir, how could you train me to compete against Sharon?”

“Son, I am not only a loving father, but also a committed teacher,” Jacob sir said, as he smiled and high-fived Aman.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:31:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/step-up-and-speak-up/article36151161.ece

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