Marymount of Santa Barbara has a reputation for producing great kids who are well prepared academically, socially and ethically for their futures. To this end, the school recently brought in Santa Barbara public speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite to help students tackle the daunting, but unavoidable, task of speaking in public. The curriculum at Marymount has many opportunities for students to build their confidence speaking in front of both large and small groups. Every middle school student presents his or her community service portfolio in front of gathered students. In 7th and 8th grade, students write a persuasive essay in which they learn three methods of appeal—logical, emotional and ethical—before delivering their persuasive speech. Students are taught rhetorical techniques in conjunction with a speech they give on a topic of personal interest. The NFL Dangerous Hit Policy and animal testing for cosmetics are recent student choices. Fifth graders deliver some of their book reports orally, sometimes in the costume of a main character. 2nd graders share their creative writing at a well-attended and popular Author’s Tea. Even on the very first day of school, students of all grades are handed a microphone at Opening Circle. Practice is the best way to get good at public speaking, and Marymount students get it.
Braithwaite took Marymount students’ public speaking skills a step further. She worked with students on such things as grounding themselves before speaking. She taught them how to command the attention of a room and how to know their audience. “It’s important to know who’s in the audience and to be able to speak their language. You wouldn’t speak to an audience of adults the same way you would speak to your peers. Some presentations are more formal and others are more casual,” Braithwaite told the gathered students. One of the things Braithwaite talked about that the students especially seemed to enjoy was “embracing your imperfections” in front of any audience. She encouraged students not to feel like they and their speeches had to be perfect to be effective. “That would be boring!” She reassured the gathered students.
Braithwaite remarked, “I was amazed at how willing the students were to come up and speak in front of the group. There were more hands raised than down. These kids are confident and have clearly had a lot of practice.” Faculty and staff participated in the training too and admitted to learning some tips as well. Head of School Andrew Wooden said, ”It is Marymount’s goal to prepare our students not just for the future, but for the brightest of futures. This training gave the students some real tools. The students will never forget what they learned.”