After the incident earlier that morning that I will affectionately refer to as Barfgate, I rushed off to speak at two local elementary schools. What…elementary schools? I know, I know. That’s what I said. To make matters worse, the first school was sixth graders then the second consisted of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. To this day, I have no clue how old these kids were, but taking an educated guess, some of them had to be in single digits. If I felt out of my league the day before, only God knew what kind of foolishness was about to happen. Oh yeah, I was told that I was only going to have to speak for 30 minutes, but it turns out that they had me scheduled for an hour. You’ve gotta be kidding me!
For the first time in my LIFE, I looked at these kids and said, “I’m old enough to be your father,” and I was RIGHT! Oh wow! Am I really that old? Yes, Mr. Hanging On To The Past, yes!
I don’t know if it was because of my knees still shaking from Barfgate
or if I finally “got it” about how to CONNECT with these kids, but my two talks were some of the best I’ve done in years. These kids were sooo cute and so attentive. I felt at home talking to these kids more than I did talking to old geezers…like YOU! I told all new stories, kept my message very light and used repetition to drive home my point (notice, I say point, not points). I didn’t rely on my normal message because #1-They wouldn’t understand it and #2-I couldn’t take another round of throw up if they didn’t like me. I know I’m being a little sensitive, but whatever. My name is SPRINKLES, what do you expect?
Anyhow, I developed some excellent habits as a result of speaking for these kids. I am so grateful for having this experience because although I was there to teach them, they actually taught me the most valuable lessons. I learned that I should always:
Take my time-I normally speak very fast when I get going. This is partially due to getting too excited and partially because I want to create imbalanced energy so people will stay alert and focused on me. Because I had to stretch my material from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, I spoke really, really slowly. This is saying a lot being that I’m from the South, and we already talk like we have hot gravy in our mouths. I was being very deliberate with my delivery. Every word was carefully placed so I didn’t use any words that were out of their vocabulary. It took a lot of brainpower to speak and edit at the same time, but slowing the pace gave me more time to do so.
Get into character-If I told a story about a chicken, I clucked like a chicken (I’m so glad they didn’t have video cameras). If I told a story about an old person, I curled my lips like I didn’t have any teeth and bent over like I was using a cane. Not only did it draw spontaneous laughter, the kids were obviously locked in on my message. So much so, that when I told the punchline of one of the stories, I could hear kids go, “Wooooow!” One little boy in the front would literally turn around in his chair when I walked by him so his eyes could follow me throughout the entire room. I’m not gonna lie, that felt really good.
Keep it REALLY simple-In terms of speech structure, I think these two talks were better than most that I’ve done in recent times. Because I couldn’t take them too many different places, I made very simple points and didn’t make any assumptions about how they would receive my message. It wasn’t watered down, it was clarified. Big difference. My message essentially said:
- Everyone has things that are different about them
- Your differences make you rare and give you value
- Your self-talk about your differences will make you stronger or weaker.
- What you believe, you achieve (pardon the motivational speaker cliche’)
That was it. Simple. Clear. Effective.
I even stopped and let them ask me questions. I remember how powerful it was for me to ask questions of an adult during an assembly. It was humbling to think that I could be a part of their history for the remainder of their lives. I could tell they were aware of the gravity of the situation as well by the complex questions they asked. They asked deep and intellectual questions such as “What is your favorite color”, “Who is your favorite basketball player” and my favorite, “Have you ever met any famous people.” I smile every time I think about those kids, even as I type this post.
Don’t be surprised if I reappear at an elementary school near you. Uncle Jon loves the kids.
What do you think? Write your comments below…