|I was a shy child. I hated being the centre of attention and didn't like to do anything that would draw attention to myself. |
I wouldn't even raise my hand in class when I knew the answers to questions. I'd scrunch down as low in my seat as possible in hopes of avoiding eye contact with the teacher. Most of the time it worked - at least I thought it did. Maybe it was just teacher's way of taking pity on me. I was a very good, geeky student otherwise.
In sixth grade, we were given an assignment for a short speech about an animal. At first, I was petrified. Then I convinced myself I could do it. After all, it was only two minutes - surely I could manage one hundred and twenty seconds. So, in typical obsessive fashion, I found myself a topic – the tree frog – and practiced and practiced.
Come the day of the speech, I was nervous, but confident. Probably too confident. I had little index cards with me as prompts and started with my memorized opening sentence. This was going to be easy, I thought. I continued on. Things were going smoothly, until at about the halfway point, I was momentarily distracted by a boy sitting at the front of the class. (He was sitting there because he was always getting into trouble and the teacher wanted him close to his desk.)
I was scanning the class, making eye contact - as we'd been told to do – when I came across Leo, with his finger up his nose. In that brief moment, I lost my train of thought. I blanked out. I stood there for an eternity, my face getting hotter and hotter. I looked down at my index cards. I looked up. I looked for the teacher. In a panic, I ran through the speech in my head, trying to find where I left off. I finally blurted out the ending and skulked back to my seat in humiliation.
It probably wasn't as bad as I thought. But at the age of eleven, it seemed horrendous. After that one speech in sixth grade, I battled severe stage fright for years. Any time I had to speak in front of a group of more than a few people, I'd be in a near panic. I finally got over it in university when much of our course work involved group presentations.
Today, I'm amazed at the aplomb with which my own children handle public speaking. Their school had them making class presentations at a very young age and it seems almost second nature to them, now. I envy them their self-confidence.