The power of public speaking at Wembley College

| June 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Chris Taljaard

Imagine, if you will, a school hall filled with children.

Aslight buzz fills the air as a group of individuals disperse unobtrusively from their seats into the aisles and walk towards the podium at the front of the room. The crowd goes quiet. The scholars in the front line up. So begins the weekly feedback. A little girl from Grade 1 stands boldly before her peers and recounts the results from her last hockey game. A young man in Grade 7 regales his friends with an account of the titanic struggle that was his most recent cricket match. His older brother, who is in his fourth form year, follows this tale with a richly textured narrative of trial and tribulation, and his team’s eventual success in a rigorous debate.

Applause fills the room. The reporters return to their seats as the head boy and girl both walk up to the podium to direct proceedings further. The assembly glides at its own sweet pace as scholars from all over the campus contribute their own little morsels that make up the meal that is the news of the week. If you can imagine this scene, you will have imagined a slice of life at Wembley College in Greytown, in the beautiful KwaZulu- Natal Midlands.

Airing views from an early age

At our school, we believe in a child-centred approach that provides our scholars with many opportunities to develop themselves as individuals and contributing members of their communities. To develop confidence and self-esteem, great emphasis is also placed on the emotional and social well-being of the child. Our scholars are introduced to public speaking in Grade 1 at our combined interphase assemblies, which are also managed by our high school scholars. In this way, our scholars become an integral part of college life. The modern world is a demanding one where being able to assert oneself is critical. More importantly, however, this assertion needs to be articulate and confident. By giving our scholars the opportunity to stand and speak before their peers, we not only provide the occasion for them to inform their family of friends about what they have achieved in the last week, but also the chance to develop their poise with purposeful and deliberate public speaking practice.

Each assembly a unique experience

Passion and dedication are key words in our vocabulary: at Wembley College, we lead with enthusiasm. Therefore, we also offer our senior scholars the opportunity to develop their leadership and social skills by letting them plan and guide the course of our assemblies. Our school Christian association, the CREW (Christians, Ready and Willing), opens our assemblies with Bible readings and prayer. Thus, we believe in giving our children the opportunity to express their faith and charity among themselves. Furthermore, our cultural corps ends off our gatherings with a performance of either song, dance or drama, prepared and performed by our scholars. Each assembly is an experience: entertaining, engaging and educational – and since children, after all, learn best from their friends, we believe in creating the scope for them to do so.

Learning to understand and be understood

We also participate in the Speech and Drama Association’s1 annual festival and take part in the South African Schools Debating Board (SASDB),2 which further develops the confidence and critical reasoning skills of our scholars. School choir and play performances and evenings dedicated to the arts also form part of our holistic approach to education. We hold firmly the belief that a well-rounded individual is not just one who can perform on the sports field, but is also someone who can confidently hold the attention of an audience. In a society where misunderstandings are so common, learning how to be understood is, therefore, crucial. These culturally focused extramural activities also give our scholars the chance to get to know each other on a different, more personal level, as they work together to achieve their mutual goals.

A firm foundation

I ask you once more to envisage a place where children, old and young, work together, play together and grow together. A place where confidence blooms amidst the beauty and serenity of the countryside, where each child is treated like an individual with unique needs and abilities. If you can conceive such a scene, you will have in your mind the image of our family.

We have created a world where children learn about each other from each other, where they can stand tall and speak with conviction about what they believe to be true. Why should they be forced to fit in when they were born to stand out? At Wembley, we provide the firm foundation from which our scholars can soar out into the world as assertive and articulate individuals capable of critical reflection – both of themselves and of the world in which they live. We encourage you to come and share in the Wembley experience yourself and also come to know that: “With joyful hearts we sing this song; Wembley’s the school where we belong!”

References:
1. See: http://www.speechanddrama.co.za/.
2. See: http://www.debate.org.za/.

 

Category: Winter 2015

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