Public speaking: A vital skill for teachers

“I have a dream” a speech by Martin Luther King that united a nation and broke down racial barriers. Without Kings leadership and inspirational speech it may have taken an extra 10 years to bring equality to all races. Hitler’s many speeches were delivered with extreme passion and caused arguably one of the most horrific genocides of all time. Throughout history public speaking has united people and caused great change, both for the better and worse. Public speaking is important, in history and in life. It is a vital skill in many disciplines. However nowhere more prominent than education. Public speaking in education is how educators inspire, teach and engage students. Good public speaking skills can enhance confidence, communication skills, help demonstrate knowledge and improve public image. Public speaking usually consists of three main components including preparation, visual aids and non- verbal communication.

How well these three main components are demonstrated or used can be the difference between a great influential educator who can inspire and teach students and a class that will not pay attention and a teacher who cannot engage. Preparation is key in presenting a well thought out, impressive presentation. To an educator preparation is vital. Preparation usually consists of the following elements audience, research, rhetorical mix and rehearsal. Elisabeth Gareis in Guidelines for Public Speaking expresses the importance of tailoring to the audience. Gareis (2006) states that “at all times during the process of preparing and delivering a speech, we need to keep in mind that we are speaking to an audience and not just to ourselves” (pp.3). For an educator it is crucial to know the students and the curriculum so that the information and how the information is delivered is tailored to the specific class. The audience is key and public speaking is all about engaging the audience whether it be a class of grade ones, students in high school or even work colleagues.

Regardless if the purpose is to persuade, argue or entertain without the audience’s attention the message is lost. To avoid the loss of the message and to keep the audience engaged it is vital to know the target audience. Know the students or colleagues ideals, the classes’ diversity, the beliefs and expectations (Nash, 2013). Knowing the audience can help incorporate what the audience expects and the purpose of the presentation or lesson to coincide together effectively. However knowing the audience or class is only half the battle as public speaking or teaching is pointless without something to say. Educators rely on credible sources to teach students about specific subjects. Research is the tool teachers most commonly use to find relevant, reliable, academic sources that support and explain the specific disciplines taught to the class. Research is important in creating a well thought out, well developed lesson in which can be tested by an academic criteria. Subsequently research is important in backing up the three most arguably important aspects to engage students. Logos, Ethos and Pathos make up the rhetorical mix developed by Aristotle.

Aristotle argued that the presence of Logos, Ethos and Pathos is vital in creating a persuasive speech (Nash, 2013, pp 154-155). Logos: the appeal to logic, Ethos: the appeal to credibility and Pathos: the appeal to emotion (Eunson, 2012 as cited in Nash, 2013) are all equally important to address in a persuasive argument. Addressing all three aspects of a rhetorical mix is an effective way to create an engaging presentation that communicates its message in a way the audience or students can easily understand. Rehearsal is the final stage of preparation that brings all aspects of the presentation or lesson together (Scudder.V, 2009). Rehearsal is an effective way to make sure all details of a presentation are in order to function at the highest possible quality. Rehearsal is key to creating a professional learning environment for the students and a credible name for the Teacher.

Subsequently rehearsal is also the best place to make sure all visual and audio aid aspects are in working order so a professional learning environment can be maintained and student’s attention do not weary (Scudder.V, 2009). Visual aids provide a further aspect to any presentation. Images, videos, handouts, posters and power points are all included as a form of visual aid. Visual aids can be used as a tool to engage students and complement content. However Visual aids especially illustrative aids such as power point images and video clips, should be used sparingly only to emphasis or explain the lessons content (Wright, J. 2009). Jane Wright explains in ‘The role of computer software in presenting information’ that delivering a presentation with both audio and visual stimuli can affect the amount of information retained by the audience.

Thus for educators it is important to tailor to the lesson only using visual or audio aids necessary to communicate the required information. Consequently gestures and actions can be just as engaging as a picture therefore just as much emphasis should be placed on non-verbal communication as visual or audio aids. Non- verbal communication includes all form of communication aside from the content said aloud. Non- verbal communication suggests everything from what you wear to how you stand can communicate a message to your audience (Nash, 2013). To educators this is especially important as students pay attention to how a teacher looks and acts. Non-verbal communication is imperative for imparting knowledge to students and maintaining their attention. Stance, eye contact, gestures and paralinguistics can all communicate confidence, knowledge and enthusiasm. Students are more likely to listen to a teacher dressed professional, making eye contact, moving around the room and placing emphasis on key areas with gestures and volume than a slouched over, monotone teacher who could not make the effort to iron their shirt.

Non- verbal communication can be just as important if not more important than visual aids. As using honesty and enthusiasm as well as good communication skills to engage students is much more effective for educators to communicate the desired content (Wright, J. 2009) Public speaking is extremely important for an educator. Students Listen to Teachers who inspire them and who communicate their ideas, knowledge or lesson effectively. If a teacher cannot communicate with students then they cannot be a Teacher. Therefore it is vital for an educator to become familiar and to master the key areas of becoming a great influential, engaging public speaker. Preparation, Visual aids and Non-Verbal communication if used correctly are what can make any speech or lesson memorable. Consequently teachers need to be aware that public speaking is a day to day ritual and mastering it is what can change a teacher to an inspiring mentor who engages their students.

Reference List

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Nash, G. (2013). A guide to university assessment. QLD, Australia: John Wiley & Sons. Section 5 pp. 158-184.

Scudder.V (2009). G Sound check: How to avoid presentation dangers. October, p. 10 Wright, J. (2009). The role of computer software in presenting information: presentation software is used frequently to disseminate ideas in visual forms that can be understood easily. Jane wright asks whether senior nurses should develop their skills in rhetoric instead. 16 (4), 30–34. Elisabeth Gareis Guidelines for public speaking, pp. 3-4

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