Monday, 15 July 2013

Primary School Report

The other day I was searching for a photo and happened upon some of my old reports from primary school. This was a fantastic trip down memory lane and gave me a bit of an insight into what I was like back then. I had almost forgotten, and was amazed to find that I was actually fairly similar to how I am now. The basic elements of my personality then, seem to have remained. The extra detail here, perhaps, pays homage to my last post which references an abundance of science that stipulates that "who we are" is determined in our first few years of life, and does not coincide with our cognitive development, so to speak.

There was one particular report that I found, however, that really interested me, and surprised me a little. It was a my SOSE report from 2001, back when SOSE was a thing we had to do various projects on different areas of science and society. The idea of SOSE was to integrate knowledge, essentially. To mash together science and history, with the added element of appreciating them in context today. In theory, it seemed a good idea, but in practice it was pretty rubbish—though I won't go there at the moment. One line from this report read:
I congratulate Travis on his excellent speech on his windsock project.
As anybody who has taken the time to read this blog will note, I like my public speaking and I'd also like to think that I'm not too bad at it (I haven't yet put someone to sleep).  It's also something I get quite sentimental about. I do really enjoy it. Not the act of public speaking itself. It's actually awful if I tell you the truth. But the work, the ideas that you go through and most importantly, the wonderful discussions you have with people about the upcoming the speech, and indeed their support.

This particular line of my report was interesting. I once said in an interview that my love affair with public speaking started in year seven, when a class that wasn't particularly fond of me, shall we say, sat there, and clung onto every word. At the end, they all applauded—and not a polite, thank-god-that's-over applause. A truly supportive accepting applause. As it happens though, this may not have been the beginning.

Reading this report reminded me of some of the public speaking I'd done in primary school. It reminded me of the Tournament of Minds, where I was in charge of presenting our project. In the face of total disaster (our project had failed), I cracked a joke that went a way to show the judges that the error was in a shakey hand, and not in our bridge (we had to run a golf ball along a bridge we constructed out of a strict list of materials). That was a hugely liberating moment. That one little line had averted disaster and had earned me the affection of my team mates. A budding engineer, certainly not; this was my mark on the project and where my strengths were best placed. Our success in reaching the state finals can largely be attributed to the way we delegated the right jobs to the right people, this was the first time I felt speaking was my job to own.

My love of public speaking was not only fuelled by success. In 2005, the year before the tournament of minds, we had the opportunity to stand for School Captain. Most of the boys in my year level gave the speeches, and there were some fairly good ones there. In fact, for a group of grade fives, the ability of them to speak well in front of an audience was incredible. However, what was evident, and what they didn't shy away from, was that they had the significant input of their parents inked into their speeches. I on the other hand, flatly refused to allow mum or dad to help me at all. Undoubtedly, it cost me the election, so it was certainly not a smart decision to refuse my parents' help; however, it gave public speaking the first opportunity to help me cope with something. It was the knowledge that my speech, one that I truly owned, had been a good speech, and had been delivered well and with integrity, allowed me to reconcile my defeat.

One last story, and I'll end my reminiscing. Another particularly fond memory I have of public speaking in primary school, that I was also reminded of by the report, was back in what was probably 2004. My grandfather was a World War II veteran, so I always took a great deal of pride in being someone who understood and appreciated the sacrifice of my grandfather and his peers in the armed forces. So when we had someone from the armed forces, a local named Greg Leader, I was naturally very excited about the occasion. He delivered his speech, and at the conclusion, I was asked by my classroom teacher to convey the class' thanks for taking his time to address us. I did so with a huge amount of pride, and after, was given the responsibility of escorting him to his next class. This was an momentous occasion for me at the time. It was only a short speech, and one that was unbelievably difficult to stuff up, but to me, the responsibility was enormous.

So, apparently I lied to Danny Lannen when I told him that my love affair had started with a humble speech to the rowdy boys of 7B. As a short trip to the past has reminded me, speaking has long been a part of my life, and provided there are still people to listen, will continue to be.

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