My son, an elementary schooler, participated in his school’s public speaking contest. Initial participation is mandatory for all students, but then a top 10 is selected for another round, and from that there’s a top 3 (and 3 alternates) who compete to win. Normal enough.
Now, the thing is that my son is a super bright, amazing dude with a palette so high that he could probably store acorns in there. We’re addressing it over time, but it’s meant all manner of speech issues, which were exacerbated because he picked up the habit of speaking fast from both his parents. So, last year, we tried to get him out of the contest on the grounds that it would just be embarrassing for him, but the principal (who is amazing) gave us a look and said that the kids who are going to have the roughest time are the ones who benefit from it most. So he did it, and that was the end of it.
This year, he actually put some work into it, and came back from the first round with the proud announcement that he had made the top ten. We were blown away. We did all the right parenting things, emphasizing that this was the result of his hard work and so on, and treated this as an absolute victory lap.
Then he made the top 3.
Now, I say this like it was an accident, but in reality he was busting hump practicing and improving. We were delighted and supportive, but this was coming from him.
So today was the finals, and he won for his grade.
We were floored and delighted. This has been very nearly a made-for-tv-movie kind of thing, and it has so fantastically driven home the lesson that HE can do these things. I really hope it sticks.
And in the realm of lessons, there’s an amusing sidebar. There’s another kid in the class who is very socially capable, able to do funny voices and so on. He also made the top 10, but ended up as an alternate because – frankly – he goofed around rather than work. My son was surprised and remarked to my wife at how good and funny this kid was, and she looked back at him and said “You’re right. Imagine how he could have done if he’d worked at it.” You could see the understanding hit the kid like a hammer.
So, given that one of our biggest goals is to not produce the kind of bright slacker that both of his parents are, this felt like a big win for everyone today. I have no idea if he wants to follow it up, but if the kid wants to make a podcast, I am all over it.