SOLSC: March 9, 2016:Presentation blues


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“Ummm…Mrs. Smith….?”

I looked up from the table I was clearing off – a whole days’ worth of middle school debris lay scattered here there and everywhere, and took in the slight figure standing before me. Adam*.  Fiercely bright, soft spoken, perceptive, and a bit of an Eeyore.  There is always a cloud to consider when discussing the fact that it’s a sunny and lovely day with Adam – he is aware of it, and he wants to make sure to point it out for you.

“Yes, Adam?” I said, taking a seat, and ready to listen.

“I think I was terrible…I mean, I think I was really terrible,” he said, dropping his backpack on the desk and slumping down onto a chair as well.

“What about your presentation do you think went awry?” I asked, knowing that, with Adam, I could use the word awry.

“Well, I loved my book, and I learned a lot from it, and I really wanted to talk about it…” he sighed, “but…” he trailed off.

In the quiet that was our classroom now, I thought back to Adam’s presentation. He had read his book on the Great Depression very thoughtfully, and his Google slides were well done: important information, good visuals.  But…

“I mumbled my way through it, didn’t I? And no one could probably hear me, either,” he said, sighing again.  “I am probably going to fail, right, Mrs. Smith? I am going to fail…” he drifted off.

I had been watching Adam, but he had been looking out of the window as he spoke, and then he turned his gaze to me.

“Presenting is really hard, Adam,” I said, “you know, when I first started teaching, I was so nervous every day that I thought I’d pass out right there in front of all my  students, before dismissal even.”

“Really?” he said, looking at me with just the smallest traces of a smile.

“Yup! I was a hot mess,” I confessed,   “but, you know what? It got better each day. The more I got up there and taught my lessons and learned how to present , it just became like breathing. And it will be the same for you…by the end of the year, you are going to get awesome at this.”

“You think so?” he asked, “because I was kind of a hot mess today.”

“Adam,” I said, “you won’t be a hot mess for long…I promise.  Our next presentation is two weeks away – I guarantee it that you will be better.”

“Well,” Adam said, with a trace of a smile again, “that will be a relief!”

“For both of us, right?” I said, smiling back.

And, that was that. We learn and grow and get better at what we do every day.  It is true for me, and it is true for Adam.  I do believe I detected a hint of a swagger as Adam picked up his backpack and sauntered out of the door…a little more Pooh than Eeyore.









17 thoughts on “SOLSC: March 9, 2016:Presentation blues

  1. You brought me right into this scene. I love the idea of the two of you talking truthfully about something that really matters to both of you.

  2. Love the connection with Pooh and Eyore. Your honesty about being hot mess is what I believe more teachers need to have. Honest conversations about life stemmed from a presentation are what can make a difference as our young students grow up.

  3. A great moment to share with us! Presenting to peers is often challenging. I love the way you let Adam know that it once was difficult for you. Presenting/public speaking is a real-world skill, and it’s great to give our students many opportunities to practice. I love the sincerity and honesty of this conversation, and the reference to Eeyore and Pooh. Wonderful post!

  4. I can see Adam. Your gentle guidance assured him without discounting his concerns. What an art this teaching business is.

  5. As I read your honest, beautiful story, I thought about Rita’s TED talk and how she says you have to be honest and tell kids when you’ve messed up. I’ve always stayed teaching ES because MSers scare me a bit. Yet, your story and the work you do with this age seems so wonderful! I loved today’s glimpse into your classroom!

  6. I love being in your classroom!!! The way you write transports me every time and I am right there with you. What you gleaned about him was critical formative assessment. You found out where he thinks he is in relation to his goal and helped him think about his next steps. That is growth mindset at its best!

    In terms of craft I love how you describe him and use the reference to Eeyore to bring it home. I can’t wait to hear about his next presentation – I think he will have lots of people rooting for him in the SOL community!

  7. Beautiful writing Tara. Such a sweet boy. So reflective and hard on himself. He is lucky to have you. This simple exchange will stay with him.

    Loved the glimpse of Pooh and Piglet.
    Thank you.

  8. He came in looking for you to assure him and you did in such a quiet way that will make him work that much harder. This is just like being the fly on the wall of your classroom. Beautiful view from where I’m watching.

  9. And the way your wrote this, it seems that Adam is “sure of you”, Tara. What gifts you give your students, the least of which is the content, the most of which is the feeling they can do!

  10. I love the way you tied Adam’s story to Pooh and Eeyore! Just as much as he will benefit from presentation practice, I know he will benefit from your heartfelt words of encouragement!!!

  11. I felt like I was in the room with you and with Adam. I could feel his uncertainty as he broached the topic with you. Letting him see your human side was most likely exactly what he needed. 🙂

  12. “We learn and grow and get better at what we do every day.” I think this would be my classroom motto if I were still in the classroom. What a gift you give us with your stories!

  13. You must have a wonderful relationship with your students because this young man was brutally honest with you – so hard for adolescents. It’s a credit to the classroom environment that you’ve established. And yes, I got a little choked up too. Thanks for sharing and for inspiring.

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