According to the Chapman University Study on American Fears in 2016, about 25% of respondents claimed to have glossophobia–the fear of public speaking. Since public speaking is an important skill in the modern world, many schools have begun to offer public speaking classes, including Leesville.
However, in Speech I at Leesville, students learn much more than just public speaking skills.
“I would hope that once a student leaves my classroom that they believe in their own self worth, [and] that they are confident to speak publicly in any class, career, award forum, or any speaking situation…So I would hope they take listening skills, speaking skills, but most importantly self confidence and self worth,” said Amy Wedge, the Speech I teacher at Leesville.
Not only do students learn how to believe in themselves and speak eloquently, Speech students learn how to connect with others–especially those who are not in their normal ‘social circles’. Past Speech students consistently describe a ‘family-like’ class atmosphere, one where they feel comfortable and supported.
“We were like a giant family; there would be people who didn’t get along, and you’d be rolling your eyes constantly, but at the end of the day…we were all together,” said Katie Duhig, a senior.
“[Speech class] was definitely a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. We did a lot of fun things but we also did some serious things where we grew a lot closer as a class,” said Amy Granick, also a senior.
“The class atmosphere that I strive for is one of a family. Close connections…just having everyone get to know one another, and appreciate and respect different points of view [and] backgrounds…It’s all about having that safe, fun family–and you [will] have your ups and downs, but it’s a family,” said Wedge.
To build the Speech family, Wedge implements activities such as ‘family sculptures’ to help her students learn about the backgrounds of their peers. Each student has an opportunity to visually represent their family by assigning roles to their classmates. After assigning roles, the presenting student arranges each ‘family member’ around the classroom to represent the connections between each member.
For example, if a sister has a close relationship to the brother, the two students may link arms. Then, the presenting student will explain why they chose each family member and explain their relationship to the rest of the family. Through this activity, Speech students have a chance to learn about their peers’ families, a topic not usually addressed in other classes, resulting in a closer connection and understanding between the classmates.
“I teach my students to listen with their whole body and their heart–that’s why we do family sculptures; so that we can appreciate our differences and respect those differences, but at the same time value who we are,” said Wedge.
Another highlight of Speech I at Leesville is the teacher, Amy Wedge. Wedge has been teaching for 27 years, and loves to teach Speech.
“I teach Speech because I love people. I love individuals, I love to bring out the best in other people, I love that moment when they see themselves as I see them…With the idea of teaching Speech, I wanted people to have confidence in themselves and to believe in themselves, so I think that is the main core of why I teach Speech,” said Wedge.
Almost every student who has had Wedge as a teacher leaves her class loving and respecting her. For some, they could not imagine Speech class without her as their teacher. Wedge takes the time to connect with each of her students’–genuinely caring for each one.
“I think she’s an incredible person, and cares so much about her students…It was really awesome to have her as a teacher,” said Granick.
Many former Speech students also express the desire for people to take the class. Speech I provides an opportunity to make new friends and learn a lot about others as well as yourself.
“I would say [Speech] is one of the best classes we have at Leesville, one of the most practical and useful in the world so I would definitely recommend taking it if you can,” said Joe Mabry, a junior.
“Speech is an important class because it’s life; it’s life skills. It’s interpersonal and intrapersonal, listening skills, global awareness, the use of public speaking skills to further your voice and thoughts written and spoken–whether it’s personally or professionally. It’s just one of those classes that I think every student should take because they can grow internally and express themselves externally,” said Wedge.
In addition to combatting glossophobia, Wedge builds self confidence in Leesville students. By providing a safe space and encouraging self love, Speech I has a lasting impact on many students.