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Red-faced and smashing: My class speech assignments are memorable.

January 11, 2018

7Part of my Bible classroom instruction includes mandatory speeches, and this makes for quite an interesting time.  My Bible Speech classroom is like a Costco hot dog:  it’s really good, but you’re not sure what’s inside.  Some students attack it with vigor while others literally shake with trepidation.

I do not apologize for it, though; effective speaking is a necessary part of Biblical leadership.  However, I do my best to be fair and start the speech instruction incrementally, with the students’ first speech being ten seconds in length, the second speech assignment being twenty seconds long, the third being thirty seconds long, and so on.  The subjects vary:  one assignment might be on the student teaching the class one part of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount, while another might be the student expounding on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Still another might be a personal testimony and yet another might be on a Biblical prophecy.

Students of all backgrounds, talents and experiences approach the front of the classroom and speak.

It’s never boring.

Elizabeth was a sophomore with striking red hair who began her speech on the book of Luke.  Within ten seconds I noticed something equally as striking:  her face blushed to the deepest hue I had ever seen in a human being.  Everyone in the classroom stared incredulously;  her face was almost as red as her hair.  Mind you now, her speech was fine, but her heart was racing so fast that her entire visage was fire-engine red.

“Dr. Zockoll, I know I’m blushing badly,” she said afterwards, frustrated.  “I can actually see my nose turning as red as a stoplight.  Is there any way I can stop this?”

“You’re extremely overworked, whether by nerves or even by fear, so we’re going to work on your calmness,” I said.  “Within five speeches you will be fine, I promise.”

Elizabeth worked on relaxation and pacing.  She came between classes to practice slower breathing and calmer gestures.  She was completely fine within four speeches.  Elizabeth was one of my star speakers that year.

Steve was a senior who took to speaking with great relish.  He emphasized with increasing volume and his gestures were dynamic.  His assignment was to speak on the book of Revelation and he delighted in the opportunity. He had requested the use of an old overhead projector for part of his visual, and although the machine was quite outmoded, he scrounged up a clear transparency and made quite a nice outline of the book of Revelation for us all to see overhead.  Man, he gave a delivery that day! It was quite clear that Steve was in his element.  The words were flowing, gathering speed and getting louder.  Steve was gesturing, swinging his arms and wildly bouncing his eyebrows up and down like a rubber ball in a clothes dryer.

Then his final moment came.  It was time to deliver a momentous closing statement.

He raised his fist,  “If we would just heed to the clear words of the truth in chapter 22,” he thundered, ” we would be able to see … “  He brought his fist down on the middle of the overhead picture.


His strike broke the glass right down the middle of the machine.  We all watched the overhead display burst into a series of cracks radiating to the edge of the screen.  His fist was unhurt, but he was stunned.

The class exploded in laughter.  Steve stood there mortified.  Would he pass or fail?  He looked at me with questioning eyes.  The students turned and waited for my reaction.  There was silence.

Friends, I delivered one of the best lines of my teaching career:

Smashing finish, Steve.”

And for the first and only time in my teaching career, I received a roar of applause.

And I gave Steve an A.




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