Many times, we are taught that to be prepared we must have a Plan. Beyond that, that we must have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…Plan C’s Backup Plan just in case. What most people forget is that most things in life we can’t plan for or control. My lesson plan today was no different. It called for delivering a speech to my students. Seems simple enough: plan a speech, write a speech, read the speech.
What happened in my class today was sheer beauty in my eyes. Unplanned beauty.
At the beginning of this school year, I shook nervously in front of the classroom, my voice shaking along with my limbs. Going over the homework was a difficult task. What if I say something wrong? What if I forget to say this or that? I had to have a plan, words all scripted out the night before, just in case. Just to feel safe, prepared, and planned.
As for speeches? I’ve always been rather terrible. For my senior graduation speech from Quaker Valley High School, I wrote a two-page speech, and against the advice of my father, memorized the entire speech, word for word. It turned out great. Because I had a plan. Minus the part where I lost my place, and had a silence of ten seconds echoing back toward me until I remembered my place.
At Penn State, I had similar, hardly perfect experiences in my speech class, beloved CAS 100. We were told to outline our speech, jot a few notes down on cards, and speak from that plan on the day of the speech. What did I do? I planned perfection. I wrote out my speech, word for word, and then tried to barely refer to my notecards. All this seemed to accomplish, besides “perfection”, was an unbearable pressure to perform perfectly. If one word was askew, or I forgot my place, it felt the equivalent of heartwrenching mayhem while I waited for each mistake to be reflected in my grade.
What I didn’t know yet was the beauty of teaching. What is the beauty of teaching? The unplanned events among the planned ones. The improvisation of words that become gold. Some things in life can’t function solely off of a plan. In fact, some of the best things in life and in learning are unplanned. They just happen.
Today while delivering my speech to my students, I had a plan, and I pitched the plan. I prepared, and generally knew the structure and story I’d stick to, but each class received different details and words of wisdom. Each class learned something different about my attachment to THON, or my beloved memories of Katie Hartman, or even my beliefs about inspiration.
I didn’t reach perfection by any means, but maybe that imperfection is perfection in itself. I released myself of all the pressured expectations, and achieved something much greater. I allowed myself to dream aloud. With each story told, my students were turned on to different dreams, details, thoughts, and hopes. Each of my classes had a different experience.
And that is what’s remarkably beautiful about teaching. You can’t plan everything. You can’t control everything. But if you can feel in control even when you’ve pitched the plan? You’ve got nothing to lose, and every positive experience to gain.
Please visit this link to view my speech to 7th period.