4H and Public Speaking

Imagine yourself standing in front of a room full of people.  You’re supposed to give a presentation.  You have your notecards, and your PowerPoint, and a bottle of water just in case.  You’ve practiced what you’re going to say in your head dozens of times.  You’re prepared.  And yet, as you stand up there all alone, in front of thousands of expectant, blinking eyes, your throat goes dry and your breathing catches and your knees get wobbly.  You glance at your carefully written notes, and take a breath, and force yourself to begin.

Sound familiar?  We’ve all had to give speeches at one time or another.  And it’s a lot of people’s biggest fear.  No one likes standing in front of others, feeling exposed.  If we mess up, everyone knows. It’s nerve-wracking.  I get why people don’t like it.

I’m the anomaly.  I actually love public speaking.  As reserved as I am, you wouldn’t think it to be true, but it is.  To me, public speaking can be easier than a regular conversation.  When I do a speech, I get to write my thoughts down on paper and organize them first, and then I get to say them out loud to an audience who wants (or has to) listen to me.  It’s like a blog post, but out loud and live.  I do get nervous, but I’ve done it enough that I’m fairly comfortable in front of a crowd, and I know that I can get through it without embarrassing myself.

It wasn’t always this way.  I first started doing speeches in 4H, and it was flipping terrifying.  In 4H, January is public speaking month.  Because 4H starts in 4th grade and continues through high school, there are different prompts for each grade level.  They gradually get harder as you get older.  Every January, members of local clubs prepare and give speeches at the monthly meeting, and those who do a good enough job in their grade category can go on to county, regional, state, and national speech competitions.

That’s where I started.  I think my family got involved in 4H when I was in 6th grade, and my mom encouraged me to do a speech.  (She may have required it as a school assignment, but I don’t remember.)  She helped me write, practice, and memorize it.  She told me when I was fidgeting, and pointed out my habit of speakingreallyfast when I get nervous (which I still have to watch out for).  I gave my speech, and I did well, so I continued.  I don’t remember how many speeches I gave, or how far I got.   I do remember also entering the local Optimist Club speech competitions when I got older.

I also vividly remember getting to state with the Optimist Club when I was a senior, where a $2000 scholarship was at stake.  I was about to graduate, and I wanted to win.  I wanted that scholarship.  There was one other student competing for the scholarship — a junior.  We drew names to see who would go first, and I got the first spot.  While I like going to first because I like to get speeches over with, this can be disadvantageous because judges sometimes subconsciously “reserve” points until later in the competition.  But I did my best — I gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever given.  The other girl was good, but I didn’t feel that her speech was as strong as mine.  (I was probably biased, but…)  However, when awards were announced, I lost the competition and the scholarship by one point.  I’m pretty sure I will always be bitter about that.

Sometimes, I miss competing.  I get to give speeches and presentations in classes, but the other students don’t really care about what I have to say.  They just want to get their own presentation over with.  I miss having more than a grade at stake.  I know I can get an A on a presentation, but I miss the adrenaline of trying to be the best.  In competitions, everyone watches you because everyone cares.  We all size each other up, and think about last minute adjustments we can make to give ourselves that edge.  In competitions, I knew I was good, but I really didn’t know if I would win.  It was a challenge.  It required me to push myself.

I did a few other things in 4H, most notably the sewing camps.  Even though I didn’t always enjoy the meetings, I am glad my parents pushed me to join and participate.  I got a lot out of 4H, and I didn’t realize until it was over just how much it shaped who I am.  But the speech competitions will always be the thing I remember most fondly about 4H.


History: Best Learned in a Classroom?

If you’ve read my about page, you know that I’m currently majoring in Marketing and Spanish.  I didn’t add my Spanish degree until second semester of sophomore year, though (before it had been a minor), so this year, I got stuck doing some required gen eds I normally would’ve taken as a freshman.  I had to take a second literature class last semester, and also European Civilization 1.

The lit class was a breeze.  The professor was finishing up her doctoral thesis, so we had hardly any homework.  (Also, the level of analysis she gave was really more suited to a high school class, in my opinion, but I wasn’t complaining.)  But the history class was another story.  A lot of majors have to take Euro Civ 1 and 2, so it was a big lecture.  And the professor was one of those who likes to scare freshman.  She was personable, but she didn’t put up with people not taking notes or having their phones out.  And she wasn’t one to give students material, either.  She walked in every day and started talking, and we were expected to figure out what was important and what wasn’t.  There was no outline or study guide, or even a PowerPoint.  She showed photos of artifacts she’d seen and trips she had taken, and that was all.  She was your typical freshman professor — like hey kids, it’s time to get serious.

A lot of kids need that.  College really is tougher than high school, and it pays to learn how to study early.  But I’m a senior.  I do feel young and unequipped at times (especially dealing with apartment stuff and other legal matters), but I’m disciplined, and I know how to succeed at school.  Going from intense, focused group projects in Marketing and Spanish — things I’m interested in and may actually use — to a history class was not very fun at all.

I get that history is important.  But I’ve never really enjoyed it.  Which is a little weird — normally students who like English and writing also enjoy history.  It makes sense — history is essentially a collection of stories.  And it’s stuff that actually happened.  They say the truth is stranger than fiction, and I fully believe that.  Some of the stuff we’ve done as humans you just can’t make up.

But I just can’t get into history when it’s taught in a class.  For one, I have an awful memory.  I grasp conceptual stuff fairly easily, and I’m good at learning processes, but please don’t ask me who it was that signed this or that treaty, because I won’t be able to tell you.  I’m not good at remembering dates, and while I have a vague timeline of world events in my head, I usually have to look up the details.

The other thing is that in class, there’s too much to cover to be able to get into the interesting stuff.  Unless it’s a very specialized class, you can’t get into the personal lives of important people, or how the culture affected certain groups — there is just not enough time.  When I was younger, I read a lot of historical fiction, and that’s where any interest I have had in history comes from.  I liked learning about how ordinary people lived in certain time periods and how major world events affected their lives.  I care about history on the small scale.  I want to know how I might have felt if I had lived during colonial America, or during World War II.  I read stuff like Soldier in Blue (which I can’t find on Goodreads), Copper Sun, all the American Girl historical novels, and the Dear America and Royal Diaries series.  Books like those, more than anything, are where I learned the things I remember about history.  It has to be relate-able.

Sometimes I wonder if more of history should be taught like that.  It’s probably not very practical, because I know not everyone loves reading like I do.  Some people are interested in big picture history, and some people learn best when listening to someone else.  But there’s a lot to be said for looking at the details and making it interesting.  History is easier to remember when you can imagine it happening to you.

I spent a lot of my Christmas break studying for the Euro Civ II CLEP test, so I could test out of the second half of the class.  There were no other options than the same professor I had last semester, and I didn’t really want to waste 3 hours a week on a history class when I’ll also be doing senior projects.  History, for me, is one thing that’s best learned on my own.

What has your experience with learning history been like?


Book Review: Teacher Misery by Jane Morris




NetGalley Synopsis:

Teacher Misery perfectly encapsulates the comical misery that has become the teaching profession. Morris’ strange, funny, and sometimes unbelievable teaching experiences are told through a collection of short stories, essays and artifacts including real emails from parents, students and administrators. From the parents who blame their son’s act of arson on the teacher for causing him low self-esteem, to the student who offers to teach the teacher how to sell drugs so she can pay her bills, to the administrator whose best advice is to “treat kids like sacks of shit,” one story is more shocking than the next. An important read for teachers and non-teachers alike– Teacher Misery paints an amusing and thoroughly entertaining picture of what has become of our education system, without detracting from the overall point that what teachers have to put up with today is complete, utter, unacceptable insanity.

If you feel like being completely entertained while also losing all hope for the American school system, read this book.

I could not put this book down.  The stories that Morris tells about the school system are riveting.  The antics and violence and outright stupidity that she and other teachers have had to endure are outright insane — some of it is so crazy it’s almost unbelievable.  If I did not know many public school teachers personally, I would be inclined to believe some of her stories are embellished.  But while I was fortunate enough to escape the atrocity that is public school, I’ve heard enough to know that this is all real.

In a lot of ways, this is such a depressing book.  We all know that our school system needs some vast improvements, but this book is a down-and-dirty look at all the ridiculous ways it needs help.  While many of the stories and episodes are hilarious, the fact that these stories actually happened is really a cause for concern.  Teacher Misery simultaneously makes me feel hopeless about our school system and gives me so much more respect and appreciation for every teacher I know.

Teaching is hard.  I think it is one of the most difficult professions a person can choose, right alongside going to war — seriously.  Not only do teachers have to pursue extensive training, but they also have to deal with ridiculous or unenforced policies, parents who refuse to discipline their children, and students who are blatantly disrespectful and sometimes dangerous.  They must watch out for psychological issues, bad living conditions, and substance abuse while staying within the confines of privacy, policy, and procedure.  And they must do all this while actually teaching — introducing new ideas and concepts and encouraging students to think critically about all aspects of their lives — in between mandatory testing, of course.  The stress that teachers are put under is incredible — Morris starts the book by stating that almost half of all teachers quit within their first five years.  Most cannot handle it.

Teacher Misery is a brutally honest look into teaching, and I think it’s something that needs to be read.  When I began writing this review, I was going to write that my only complaint was that Morris does not counter her bad experiences with any good ones.  But then I remembered it was titled Teacher Misery for a reason.  If I had experienced all that Morris had been through, I would rant for 244 pages too.

I received this book from Truth Be Told Publishing through NetGalley for free in exchange for this honest review.

Forpy: Smooth Road


  • Whoa. . .high school is almost over.  I’m not bummed about finishing, because believe me, I’m ready to get out.  But this is one chapter of my life that can never be lived again.
  • Certain people were really getting on my nerves this week, and then I complain, and then I know I shouldn’t and then I feel guilty for complaining.


  • I finished my second-to-last subject last Thursday.  :D
  • My new job has been going great!  I’m learning quickly and it’s a lot of fun so far.  
  • Finally received my book from Waterbrook Multnomah — look for the review in a few weeks!
  • Got to spend some time with a friend who I haven’t really talked to in ages.  ♥
  • I will have some time this summer to work on one of my goals — getting published before I graduate college.  Time to sift through all my old, forgotten, unfinished stories.


  • Of course, prayers go up for all the people in Boston and in Texas.  
  • The boy in my Sunday school class whose father died after a long illness.
  • I hope my economics studying pays off in May.


  • God found me a job I will enjoy.
  • Have I mentioned high school is almost over?

Life’s pretty good (see title).  Of course, as I write these, I think of all these things I wish I had done better this week, like studying more (ahem) and exercising and eating better.  But that’s what this post is for, right?  I look back and see what I can do better.  

Self Challenge:  This week, I will study more than I will slack off.  I will practice my flute, because I CAN overcome this tone issue that my braces have caused.  I will exercise to keep myself healthy and I will try to cut down on the junk food.