Developing self-confidence

Deborah Gump

I tell my editing classes that too many students - too many people in general, in fact - are too shy. As citizens and as journalists, they must learn to take the initiative, speak up for their convictions and ask the questions that need to be asked. In short, they should be able to put themselves on the public stage when necessary.

So we turn the classroom into a stage for anyone who wants to perform for extra credit. I've had students memorize and recite a poem, sing an original song, act out their favorite children's story - even demonstrate their swing-dancing skill in the lobby of the building.

Some students leap at the opportunity; more have to be persuaded by their perceived need for the extra point I'll add to their final grade. The quality of their performance is irrelevant; the point is that they overcame their shyness and terror of public speaking. The performances also send a message to those in the audience: See? People don't die of stage fright.

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