Sunday, February 26, 2012

You Matter: An Open Letter to My Speech Kids

This has been a crazy year with you guys. I wasn't sure I could coach all of you alone, without a co-coach. But I am very protective of you. Not just anyone could step in and work with you, so I decided to give it a try.  I told you all you would have to step up and help me out. And you have. You've helped with the mundane tasks like filling out the letter point sheets, double checking the old sheets, and going over registration sheets and making sure I haven't left anyone out. 

Then came time for the real work of contest speech. 


At the beginning of the season, you "old timers" took the "newbies" and showed them how it's done. And you helped them. You didn't leave them out, or view them as competition.  You rehearsed with them, you gave them pointers, you cheered them on when it was time to perform.  

I saw teamwork with the large group events.  You didn't complain when I asked you to take "the freshmen" and make sure they got where they needed to go, with what they needed to have.  You hauled props, carried my box of essentials, and made sure everyone had a supportive audience. Even at state, when we had to leave at 4:30 in the morning so a couple of us could leave to go to Honor Band.

And then individual started.  42 events. Each needing to be rehearsed once a week. Not kidding you, I wasn't looking forward to it. 

But you know what. You stepped up again. From freshmen to seniors, you stepped up. 

You rehearsed each other!

Friday night amazed me.  You just took over the school. Rehearsals were everywhere. That's dedication (Ok, so it was also a little panic setting in. It stilled showed dedication). People came in to rehearse with me, sometimes not during their time. I was running late, but no one complained. You just kept practicing on your own until I could get to you. 

I just smiled at one point as I stepped into the hall. Amid the teasing and laughing and messing around, there was serious work happening.  I loved it.

Saturday came. 

And here is where the magic happened for me. I watched all of you throughout the day. (I know. Not your performances--it's impossible for me to get to them all). So, I walked the halls and haunted the gym. You made sure that your friends had a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, and a supportive audience. You took the others in your category and rehearsed with them. You calmed down the jitters. You fired people up. You watched as many people perform as you could. 

And you were there when the ratings came out. Judges can be tough. And I can say all the right words, but it's you who makes a difference.  You cheered for those who received Division 1's. They deserved it. Hard work pays off. 

But for those who didn't receive those ones, you were magnificent. Because sometimes, hard work doesn't pay off. You were indignant. You were astonished. You held hands. Gave shoulders to cry on. Talked quietly about performances. 

I have never been more proud of students in my life. Being a speech kid isn't always easy. I know sometimes you get teased about it. It takes a lot of dedication, self-confidence, and self-discipline. It takes heart and compassion.

I always talk about you as my "speech kids" (and you are my kids, you know). But calling you kids doesn't seem to be enough this year.  I looked up the word "team" this morning. Most of those definitions didn't seem to fit you either. Until I got to Wikipedia:

"A team comprises a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose. Teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.
A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximise his/her strengths and minimise his/her weaknesses. Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations.[1]
Yep--you are a team! And, you will, always and forever, be MY KIDS!


  1. I was tearing up as I read this. I can't help but be amazed and proud of your speech kids, too, after reading your heartfelt praise and wonder-filled words for them. They were lucky to have been led by you, I know this is true, but it still takes an incredible group to step up and take advantage of wonderful leadership. Congratulations to all of you!

  2. I think first you need to print this & frame it for your classroom, for others to see, for your Team to see more than once. What a marvelous tribute you have written for those kids, Deb, and they couldn't have ended this way without one incredible teacher/leader. Your modeling and enthusiasm and caring ways shine through again and again. I hope you're proud of yourself as much as you are proud of YOUR KIDS!

  3. Thanks Christy and Linda. I really posted this so everyone knows what terrific kids they are. But I also posted it to the speech Facebook page so they will all get to read it!

  4. Hi Deb,
    I wanted to know if you created the graphic "You Matter" for this day's blog. I was wanting to borrow or buy it for a sermon series and need to know if you're the owner or not.
    Dale Jones
    Litchfield, IL

    1. Dale, I did not create the image for You Matter. Christy-Rush Levine, who commented above made it for me. You should contact her about using it


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