Thursday, April 19, 2012

Things I Learn From Teaching College

I teach Public Speaking at a local college. Public Speaking… the course everyone loves to hate.  I started as a part time instructor in 1997, and then took a “full-time” position in 2004.

Over the years, I have seen nearly every imaginable reaction to the thought of giving speeches: from utter confidence to running out of the room crying.  At the beginning of each semester I try to tell to share that bit attributed to Jerry Seinfeld:

Fear of public speaking is ranked higher than the fear of dying. That means if you’re at a funeral you’d rather be the one in the casket than giving the eulogy.

Sometimes that provides perspective. But  sometimes… not so much.  I have seen people throw up, pass out, or turn so red I was sure they were going to have a heart attack. A young man in one of my classes got nervous and ran out of the room during his speech.  I found him a while later wedged in the 8-inch space between the wall and the soda machine at the end of the hall.  I don’t think he was permanently traumatized, but I know I was.

The good news is: almost all these people ended up successfully passing the class.  They may need therapy afterwards, but they passed.

I have found myself recently becoming a wee bit jaded at watching speeches.  Not surprisingly when you consider that I’ve watched over 8000 speeches during the last 10 years.  It becomes monotonous.

But in an effort to become a better listener and instructor I’ve decided to post at least one interesting random fact I learn on speech days.  Not facts about public speaking, just interesting things I learn from the speeches I hear.

So, I present to you, interesting random facts from this semester’s speeches:
Nazca Lines... real??

1. Certain people of European decent will be resistant to HIV because of a genetic mutation that happened when their ancestors survived the Black Plague in the 1300s. Not that I'm going to try to get HIV to find out if I'm one of them...

2. The Nazca Lines exist and are not just something from a sci-fi movie. They were discovered by commercial air flights in the 1930s. Who knew these were actually real ?? And if they are, why isn’t everyone in the world trying to figure out what they really are? 

Bucket List Addition: Four-Corners Monument
3. That I want to add visiting the Four-Corners Monument to my Bucket List. A place where you can be in four different states at one time while playing Twister? Count me in. Right foot - Arizona. Left hand - Colorado...


  1. Whether or not Seinfeld was the first person to say that bit in quite that way, I can affirm that he does in fact say it. My brother has the recording, and I've heard it often.

  2. (And I daresay no one in the classes you teach had the kind of trauma we went through in the Speech class we took together, when a certain speaker came up with a certain "prop"!)

    1. It is definitely true, Mark, that I have never faced that issues in all my years of teaching. Of course, things are much different now than when you and I were in college (what was it, 3... 4... years ago?? :D) Everyone would completely *freak out* if someone brought anything resembling a weapon into a classroom now.

      Was that Brian Fuller's first year of teaching? Amazing he even continued after that...