Like many of you, I enjoy reading the work of Tulsa World columnist Jay Cronley. His light yet often insightful commentaries about life are published several times each week, typically on the front page of the Local news section.
In this morning’s column, titled “How to Keep an Audience Upright,” Jay begins with the simple premise that “speaking well is a lost art.” I agree. We have all sat through long, boring, and disjointed presentations from speakers who seem oblivious of the fact that there is an actual audience listening. Honestly, I am likely guilty of doing this myself. Giving a great speech or presentation is more than just having good facts. The speaker must also be able to build and maintain interest and engagement while adapting his or her presentation in response to both verbal and non-verbal audience feedback. With this in mind, I found Jay’s advice for speakers today quite useful. Here is how Jay framed it:
Here’s an exercise I learned in speech class: Imagine yourself having to listen to what you’re about to say.
Just me: Here’s something that might work a little magic with what you have to say to a person or to a group: a tag line.
This comment at a recent speech got a better response than I had imagined.
I said that I thought the following: Any football coach who recruited a player who enacted violence on a woman should be fined $500,000 on the spot. But that’s just me.
The addition of “but that’s just me” seemed to add a touch of responsibility and even humor to a serious comment that could have closed down the joint.
Here’s another one: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thunder won zero NBA titles under the current management. But that’s just me.
Hmmm, this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it would be fun to create some of our own “but that’s just me” sayings relative to public education? I submit if we were to enact these five simple proposals, some reformers might actually experience a change of heart. I am sure you have a few of your own to contribute to the discussion so feel free to share those in the comments as well. Here is my short list for your consideration:
1. I believe that any legislator who supports the idea that ALL students should pass four of seven end-of-instruction (EOI) tests in order to earn a Oklahoma high school diploma should agree to take these same assessments and have his or her scores published in the local newspaper. But that’s just me!
2. Likewise, I contend that any legislator or policy maker who argues that children from families immigrating to the United States (especially older students or those with significant education gaps) should be able to pass a high-stakes reading test in English after only one year in America should be required to take the ACT exam in Mandarin Chinese after only one year of study. But that’s just me!
3. How about this one? I believe that any dentist (or doctor for that matter) who believes that the A-F grading system is a fair and accurate measure of the quality of a school—or that teachers should be evaluated based on the test scores of their students—should agree to have their own practice and staff evaluated based on the dental and/or medical health of their patients. Further, if their business happens to serve patients with higher health needs or poor dental habits, they should be required to develop an annual Dental Improvement Plan (DIP) for each patient with measurable goals for growth. If sufficient growth is not achieved, the state should have the authority to take over the practice, fire the dentist and staff, and replace them with “Drill for America” dentists with five weeks of specialized training. If this does not work, the practice should be closed and replaced with a charter dentist office that accepts only patients with good teeth. But that’s just me!
4. I think that any citizen who argues that teachers are overpaid, have it easy, and are averse to accountability should volunteer to substitute in a high needs public school classroom for one week. This assignment would include writing engaging and rigorous lesson plans—aligned to applicable standards of course—that meet the differentiated needs of 150 students with varied learning styles and significant academic gaps each day. This would also involve developing and grading hundreds of daily assignments and assessments and communicating effectively with parents who do not speak English or are otherwise disengaged. The folks can also enjoy trying to take care of “personal business” in the three or four minutes between classes and scarfing down a microwaved Lean Cuisine during their luxurious 25 minute lunch period. But that’s just me!
5. Finally, I believe that any person who believes that children today are lazy, pampered, and unchallenged should spend one day shadowing one of our academically talented students at Jenks Middle School or their own local school. Here is one such schedule for a 13-year-old eighth grade student: Pre-AP Algebra II, Pre-AP Biology, Pre-AP Language Arts, U.S. History, High School Chinese III, and Orchestra. After seven hours at school, many of these students spend several more hours in school-sponsored athletics/activities, then go home, eat a quick dinner, and spend another two to three hours doing homework, studying for tests, or practicing an instrument. I am likely leaving out family stuff like attending church activities, taking care of pets or younger siblings and completing other assigned chores. What a bunch of unmotivated slackers. But that’s just me!