Monday, December 10, 2012

What Are Words For?

Part of the reason I took on the teaching gig was the fact that I do so much enjoy the sound of my own voice. There was a moment during the interview for my admission into the credentialing program when I was told, in very calm tones, "You'll have to take a public speaking course." As if this would be some sort of deal-breaker.
It wasn't. I grew up as an introverted child. Sometimes painfully so. I found expression through writing. By the time I was in the sixth grade, I discovered that the best way to ensure that people weren't laughing at me was to ensure that they were laughing with me. While I never found my way to the peak of wiseneheiming, Class Clown, by the time I graduated high school very few people would mistake me for "shy."
Which is why it comes as very little surprise to those who watched me grow from that quiet kid, scribbling at his desk, to the "voice" of Horace Mann. I lead the whole school in our weekly affirmation, and sometimes add a little extra infotainment in on the edges. So appreciative of this quality, my principal made it even easier for me to spread my words by putting me in charge of the school's megaphone: The Fanon.
As anyone who has spent embarrassing time with me can relate, in detail, I have no "indoor voice." Handing me an amplifying device may be one of the more redundant things I can imagine. My wife might request a voice minimizer instead. That's why when it came time to say a few words on the occasion of my Outstanding Teacher Award, my first impulse was to say nothing. That would make the event truly special. Then I remembered the time I offered Academy Award nominee, and eventual winner, Joe Letteri ten dollars (American) to find a way to insert the word "mayonnaise" into his acceptance speech. I felt that it was a pretty good deal, but he declined. Moments before I was called to the stage at my district's award ceremony, I related this story to my friends and family at the table. I got an offer of three dollars from one of my colleagues. When I found myself in front of the microphone, looking out on that sea of expectant educator faces, I thought again about taking the high road. I thanked everyone for coming and how much I appreciated the honor. And then I said that as much as I do for the school, there was one thing I would never do: "check to see if the mayonnaise has expired."
I got some applause, and polite laughter, and there were three dollar bills sitting on the table when I found my way back. I think this teaching thing is really starting to pay off.

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