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…there was screaming in the classroom…

February 10, 2014

“I’d like for you to turn to the book of Revelation, and to turn specifically to the seventeenth chapter.  I want to talk to you about the meaning of Babylon…”

My students are teaching now.

Not the whole period, though.  Part of the Bible training in my class is speech; that is, in giving lessons in the Scripture. My goal is for the teens to be able to articulate the truths in the Scripture as well as learn them, following the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle of committing 1awhat they have learned to others who will also be able to teach it.   This week we have anywhere from two to four speeches per class period where the students give a short overview of a section of the Scripture that we’ve been studying.  The presentations are not burdensome, as most of the speeches are only sixty seconds long.  In this way I can rotate through the entire class numerous times throughout the semester and get each student accustomed to the feeling of being in front of an audience.

Morris relishes the opportunity.  “Good afternoon, my fellow students,” he booms as he gestures grandly toward the screen.  “It is with great pleasure that I espouse the truths of the enjoyable Gospel of Matthew…”  He motions, struts, smiles, bows, twists.  It’s his nature to speak.  He’s a natural.

Then there’s Rhonda.  She shuffles toward the front, wound so tight I am afraid if she leans over the podium she might crack some vertebrae.  “Hello, my n-name is Rhonda and I’m here to share … t-to share a few points on the Doctrine of Angels… you see..”

She struggles, but by gum, she gets through it.  The class explodes in applause and I see her gently smile as she returns to her seat.  She’ll make it.

Tonya is comfortable with speaking, but she has one continual problem.  She wants to follow the lingual pothole of this generation:  the use of the word “okay” in opening a speech.  I have warned her and others about this.

“This is an unacceptable word in this classroom,” I tell them.  “It is a weak word and it is used as a crutch.  The use of the word ‘okay’ is telling everyone that your thoughts are so scattered, so wildly flying around your head that you must use a low-grade mental magnet to pull all of your random thoughts together just to get your first sentence out.  You truly portray yourself as a scatterbrain.”

“But a lot of people use it,” responds James.  “I just heard it the other night at a meeting.”

“And it was too informal, wasn’t it?  It obviously wasn’t a seasoned speaker, I’ll bet,” I answered.

James shook his head.  “No, it was a youth leader making some announcements. Yeah, they were trying to be like one of us.”

“Rise above it,” I continued.  “Be above the average speaker and don’t use a scatterbrained opening.”

“Wow, you’re really obsessive about this,” chuckled Kathy.  “This is a big thing to you.”

“Absolutely right, ma’am,” I said.  “And if anyone uses the word ‘okay’ to start off their speech, I will dock you one letter grade and more than that, I will scream.  You will hear a 54-year-old man scream out loud.”

“You’re kidding,” said James.

“You don’t want to hear it,” I said.  “It isn’t pretty.”

And now the class is atwitter as Tonya strolls to the front.  Will she overcome this habit?  She carries her notes on Psalm 22 and appears to be organized and comfortable.  I do not detect any anxiety in her face.  Perhaps this time she’ll make it through.  She lays out her notes on the podium, looks up and smiles brightly.

The timekeeper signals for her to begin.

She clears her throat.

She opens her mouth.  “Okay, then…”

I let it loose.  I bring the full-throated guttural energy coming up from my toes.  I raise my face toward the ceiling and open my mouth.  It is a high-pitched, raspy, ear-splitting scream.


Students leap in their seats, grabbing their ears.  I aim for such a high octave that it is actually painful.  Tonya jumps almost a foot in the air, throwing her hands up in shock.  Half of her notes fly off of the podium.  One girl winces and shuts her eyes.  Ryan spills his energy drink on the floor.  It takes a full two minutes to restore order in the classroom.  James’ chest is heaving.  “Wow, Doc,” he said.  “I didn’t think you would really do it.”

Yes, I would.  And I did.

And it leaves a lasting impression.

Last summer I met one of my former students at West Town Mall, a young lady who was a capable speaker in my class but who also had the verbal hitch of using the word “okay.”  She was also a recipient of one of my guttural primal shrieks, but she evolved to be one of my best speakers that year.  Tracy is a graduate of University of Tennessee, having achieved honors and great career prospects .  While we stood near the food court she told me of her various speech classes at the university, boasting that she aced every one of them with little difficulty.

“I do want you to know one thing, though,” she said, shaking her head and raising her eyebrows.  “Every time I approached the platform – every time! – I had a horrifying vision of this middle-aged bearded man in the back of the room raising his face to the ceiling and screaming.”

She laughed.  “You taught me how to speak better.  But you’ve also scarred me for life.”

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