A day at State Speech is a day of hurry up and wait.  A day of so many highs and lows. Emotions run wild (500 or so walking hormones!) Nerves can attack even the most confident as they wait for those all important ratings.

All day long I heard, "I can't wait to read my ballots."  Those ballots, you see, should justify the ratings.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

Today, one was outstanding.

I have a young man, a sophomore,  who competed in Spontaneous Speaking for the first time. Spontaneous Speaking is TOUGH.  At the end of January coaches receive a list of ten possible topics for Spontaneous. Not the questions, the topics. The idea is the students will read up on those topics, watch the news, and form opinions.

At contest, the contestant draws three questions related to those topics, chooses one, and has THREE minutes to come up with a speech (no longer than five minutes). Really. Three minutes. I told you it was tough. Then they go in front of the judges and an audience and speak.

My student did pretty well when he spoke on "Are Independent Voters the Most Important Force in American Politics?"  But for me, impossible to tell what he received. When scores came out he received two Division 1's and a Division 2 (overall then, he received a one).  He couldn't wait to see what the judge who gave him a two had to say.

On the way home on the bus, I pass out ballots so kids can see what the judges had to say. There was some grumbling, some disagreements and some Aha moments.

And I hear my young man, "Mrs. Day, you have to read what the judge who gave me two had to say. It's awesome.  He thinks I have great potential in Spontaneous.  That I have great presence when I speak. He thinks my delivery is amazing."

And the judge did say all that, as well as telling the young man why he didn't get a one from him for this speech . This judge made a Division 2 feel like an Academy Award.

I listened contentedly as my student talked about his plans for this event next year...

Ahhh, the power of comments.


  1. So glad it went for him! Yes, the power of words!

  2. This speaks volumes about the judge and your student. First, that the judge provided a balanced comment that speaks to the contestant's strengths and needs as a speaker. Bravo! It speaks as well to your student's positive attitude as a learner. He revelled in the feedback. The countdown is over. You've worked hard to get them ready for this. Hope you're taking time to bask in the glow.

  3. And there lies a student who craves growth and is learning to reflect. Wow, what an amazing thing to witness! Sounds like a great day.

  4. You said it, the power of a comment. Feedback on what did I do well, where can I grow? How exciting for you to witness this learning!
    Can you get some rest now?

  5. Deb - Your piece brought me back to my own high school years 35+ years ago. I was one of those speakers. I never did the extemporaneous speaking which is what it was called then, but I did monologues. I can clearly remember the excitement of reading the ballots. I think I still have some in my basement. Now, if we could only learn to make kids feel that good when we comment on their writing!
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. The power of feedback is amazing. Thanks for taking us on this journey with you!

  7. Congrats to you and your students!!! That judge made a tremendous impact on that young man and has encouraged him to go for it in the future. Today you can relax and tomorrow you can continue to encourage your students. Way to go!!!

  8. Deb,
    So true. I think we are learning about the power of comments. The feedback that tells us what worked, the connections of our readers, the cheers to continue all push us forward. I wish I would have had taken advantage of those opportunities to learn to speak publicly. What a terrific learning experience for your students. Congrats!

  9. So fabulous how this young man took the comments and critique and listened to them to grow. I can't imagine competing in something like that. Brave young people!

  10. Ooh, how neat that the judge commented in a way that made your student want to improve and come back next year!

  11. That is exactly what I'm talking to the teachers that I work with about-commenting to make a difference. What a gift that judge gave your student. Thank you for sharing this Deb. I am so excited to hear this one more example of the powerful words of response.

  12. What a special talent that judge has. You should call Craig. Good for PH! He's a great kid and this was a much-needed challenge for him. Way to go Coach!

  13. I have to judge these in a few weeks. I will keep this in mind.

    1. It really means a lot to the kids to read why a judge gave them a rating. My kids love critiques on all their ballots. They really don't want to just know what they did well (although they like to hear that too). They want to know what they need to do so they are better the next time!

  14. The power of commments. I think this judge has mastered something special, how to give constructive feedback! That is the key.


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