Saturday is District Large Group Speech Contest. Many of the schools from Plymouth County will travel to Moville for contest. Saturday's performances before a judge will culminate weeks of rehearsals, the majority occurring before and after school.
Speech is an extracurricular activity that is associated closely with drama. Nearly all of the events involve acting. Individual Speech Contest follows next month. The groups and individuals who receive I ratings at District contest will advance to State. At State, the judges can award an All-State designation and the groups and individuals can compete again. The best of the best comes back from All-State with a banner that denotes their performance as the best in the state.
Speech (Declam back in the day when I participated) can attract a broad cross section of the high school population. It's one of the few extracurricular activities where you might find students who don't participate in any other activity as well as athletes and musicians.
This is a good and healthy thing. One of the most univerally hated and feared activities in life is getting up in front of a group of people and speaking. Some people would literally rather have invasive and painful dentistry performed without the benefit of novocain that speak in front of a group of people.
Public speaking and coping skills are just a few of the lasting life lessons learned by participants in speech. Being able to influence an audience by making them laugh or cry is another skill, one that is just as useful.
When I attended high school, the speech coach and journalism instructor were the same person, Steve Hanley. As is the case with any student working with a teacher, the teacher often becomes a sounding board, friend and in some cases another parent. Mr. Hanley was that person to me. With the skills I learned in his class and working on the newspaper, I knew that communications was what I wanted to do.
He has passed away, but helped me discover and develop a passion for journalism. I also learned a great deal about myself by participating in speech contest, plays and musicals.
It is very easy to think that in our self-centered, ever-connected world of today that our children have well developed self esteem and communication skills. They text, Facebook, tweet and sometimes actually even talk to each other in person.
It is obvious that they have the whole communication thing worked out, right?
I don't think so. If anything, all of the forms of electronic communication that we have at our disposal have made us more introverted and even worse at communicating with each other.
We need speech, now more than ever.
Locally, it appears that years of good coaching have made a strong program even more popular.
At a recent meeting of the Le Mars Community school board, the district approved a contract for a second assistant coach for the Large Group Speech program, noting that there were over 100 students participating.
This is wonderful news. It is good because these students who are participating will learn invaluable skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. It is good news for the rest of us because these young people will provide wonderful entertainment in their ensembles (the public can attend contests) and be able to carry on conversations with people of all ages. Students that can speak in public are more confident and, in my opinion, less likely to get in trouble and give in to peer pressure.
All extra-curricular activities teach valuable life skills. Speech does it in such a sneaky and fun way that students often don't realize the value of the skills they are learning until much later in life.
Good luck to all of the ensembles that will be performing on Saturday. Remember to relax, breathe, enunciate and project your words.
But most of all, have fun! Speech is meant to be fun.
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