Friday, May 29, 2009

Read My Lips...Um....

Plan-It School Series

I have a huge personality defect. I have real trouble accomplishing anything without a very detailed plan. Allow me to illustrate….

In high school, I was a member of the forensics team. I competed in several events and was most successful in original oratory. At the beginning of the school year, I composed a ten minute speech, memorized it, and delivered it at various competitions. I brought home a first place trophy from almost every tournament. I excelled at O.O. because it afforded me think-time. I planned what I would say in detail and memorized it word-for-word which gave me the confidence to stand before my judges and speak with ease.

After a few months of wins in O.O., my coach decided I should try a new event. Since I had been successful as an orator and because I stayed on top of current events, she encouraged me to try extemporaneous speaking. I agreed to give it a try. Boy, was that a mistake!

Exactly thirty minutes before I was to deliver a 3-5 minute speech before a judge, I had to draw the topic for the speech from a hat. I will never forget the first topic I drew. This was during George H. W. Bush's first campaign for president. (I just dated myself, didn't I?!) I was given the task of explaining his plans for education reform. The rules allowed me to use any source I had brought with me (which was none) or any that was available in the library of the host school. I found no sources pertaining to the topic... absolutely nothing!

I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I was a Young Republican and had closely followed Bush's campaign but being put under a time constraint made me forget anything I may have previously known about him. The longer I unsuccessfully looked for a source, the more jumbled my thinking became. I stood before the judge with nothing, seriously, nothing to say. However, determined not to give up, I started my "speech" anyway.

"Vice President… George… Herbert… Walker… Bush (at least I remembered his full name)… is being hailed… the education… um… candidate. Should George… Herbert… Walker… Bush… be elected… he will (Think, Dawn, think! What will he do?)… he will need to tackle… the issue of… um… education reform. George… Herbert… Walker… Bush (Whew! I'm glad his name is long. This is adding at least a minute to my speech) could be the president… to lead us … to better… um… schools. George… Herbert… Walker… Bush…. um… um… um…."

That's where the judge stopped me.

"You have no idea what you're talking about, do you?" he asked.

"Not a clue," I replied.

"Yeah, " he continued. "I'm going to have to stop you because if you say 'George Herbert Walker Bush' one more time, I may have to scream."

I thanked him for his patience and quickly exited the room, making a beeline for my coach. I told her what had happened and declared that I would never, ever participate in extemporaneous speaking again! Later in the day, after I had time to think, I realized many things I could have said in that speech.

I learned from that experience that I require think-time. I cannot do things off-the-cuff. Over the years, I have also learned this applies to my teaching as well. Without a well-laid plan, I crash and burn. I take pains with my pre-planning because I really must. As a result, people are often curious about how I prepare for school. In fact, I have recently received e-mails asking for advice in this area.

As not to disappoint my loyal readers, this is the first entry in my Plan-It School Series. I complete most of my school plans over the summer and intend to write about each step of my process as I complete it for the '09-'10 school year. I hope many of you will join me and will feel free to share some of your planning tips as well.

However, as you read about my system, keep in mind that I tend to over-plan. Please, feel free to take from this series what will work for you but feel equally free to leave behind what won't. In return, I will give myself plenty of time to think before I write so that I won't start rattling off any long presidential names. :-)

Return soon for Step One: Creating a Schedule.

1 comment:

argsmommy said...

As a fellow planner I can't wait to read your future posts. Last year I was well into my planning process by now, but this year I haven't even started my schedule yet. So I will be planning right alongside you and hopefully gleaning a few tips from you in the process. : )