10 months ago

Attitude makes a difference

Harriet’s voice grated

Harriet’s voice grated on Riccardo’s ears as she set herself up for some kind of admission, "At this school, all the experienced teachers have worked here forever, for more than fifteen years anyway. The younger, recently-qualified teachers, like me, likely stay for a year or two before moving on to other less-demanding posts elsewhere." "Then why was I really invited here?" wondered Riccardo. Riccardo asked, "What's your reason for inviting me?" Harriet rallied as she gave the official reason for inviting Riccardo, "It's important for the students’ language development to be able to give a presentation of some kind. And, it's part of the school’s assessment process that the students are expected to stand up and speak in front of an audience. They have tried giving presentations three times now and it went from bad to worse. At first, only a few of the students tried, but after the feedback none of them wanted to try again. The presentations will affect their grades and I cannot ignore them." Riccardo inquired about Harriet’s relationship with the class as a whole. "What are they like to teach?" he asked. Harriet replied with a few well-chosen words. "Sullen. Aggressive. Hurtful." she said. "In most lessons, they don’t listen to each other, they interrupt and are generally rude. When it comes to presentations they become quiet. A moody, sullen silence falls over them and they can become vocal and aggressive when I pressure them to prepare to give a presentation." "So what’s really going on here? What is it like for this teacher to give a presentation to the class? How do the students feel when listening to their teacher?" asked Riccardo's inner voice. When they arrived at the classroom, the students were already in the room, mostly seated in their places. Harriet asked for quiet and then presented Riccardo to the class. Riccardo stepped to centre stage and began speaking. 60

"My name is Riccardo. I am a business communications consultant. In my work, I give presentations and I train other people to give presentations." Riccardo projected the first slide 'Criteria for Effective Presentations' and waited. The few students who were looking at him seemed unimpressed by his initial words. Riccardo scanned the room for the informal leaders. There were several candidates; some returned his gaze with curiosity, others were keeping eye contact with their classmates, occasionally looking over at Riccardo. Their facial expressions and body language telegraphed that they felt confident in front of their classmates. Riccardo shared a little more. "Presentations are my ‘thing’. I’m here to share with you what I know about presentations. He showed the next slide 'Essential Presentation Skills' and paused. "But first let me ask, what would you like to know?" Riccardo asked, and waited patiently. Their silence spoke volumes about their lack of willingness to ask for what they wanted or needed. Their looks left Riccardo with a mixture of fear and dread in the pit of his stomach. "I feel their fear," the voice observed. "It’s time to bring that fear into the light," Riccardo replied. "There’s no point telling them not to be afraid; there is no point telling them that being afraid is a big disadvantage in their lives. I will have to make the point another way." By turning the concept of 'fear' inside out and finding 'courage,' Riccardo realized he needed to help them to be courageous. "Yes, courage would be a positive way forward," Riccardo’s inner voice concluded. But telling them wouldn’t help matters; it would be much better to demonstrate, to inspire them to be courageous. "So I will look for the courage in the informal leaders," thought Riccardo. 61

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