Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CONQUERING WORD FAILURE


(by guest blogger Margaret)

It is flattering to be asked to write a guest blog for a friend. But then reality sets in.  Panic. What to write about? Or perhaps even more importantly, how to write it? A blog is a unique form of self-expression and one with which I’m unfamiliar. In my past employment life I have written dozens of academic essays, papers and policy documents, several of them in my second language, but blogging is a whole new challenge. 

Why is it that some of us, normally quite literate and articulate, develop paralysing symptoms of tongue-tie or writer’s block when asked to speak or write? It does not necessarily equate to shyness, lack of confidence, or an inability to express oneself. Is it caused by fear of failure? I don’t know. But I do know that for the afflicted individual, the prospect can be daunting.

My earliest memory of ‘word failure’ took place early in my first year at primary school, when I was five years old. A traffic officer had visited and spoken to us about road safety. At the end of his talk, our teacher asked me to stand up and thank him on behalf of the assembled junior school. I cringed in terror.

“I can’t do it. I can’t, I really can’t” I protested. I was usually regarded as the class chatterbox with too much to say for myself, but this request was terrifying. I felt totally inadequate. I blushed and hung my head in shame.

“Why can’t you do it?” the teacher asked, not unkindly.

“Because I haven’t got the words,” I replied.

To my relief the teacher excused me, but told me firmly that next time she asked me to speak, I should oblige. Sure enough, a few days afterwards, I found myself called upon to give a Morning Talk to our class.  Determined to do better, I struggled to conquer my nerves as I clambered up off the mat and took my place in front of the blackboard.

“Good morning, boys and girls” I began. This was the standard Morning Talk introduction.

“Good mor-ning, Mar-garet” they replied, in that singsong style so beloved of small children.

I braced myself, ready to deliver my first-ever formal speech. I realised I was being tested and I did not want to disappoint. This time, I knew I had to find the words, it really was now or never, so I took a deep breath and gazed bravely down at my classmates. I was blissfully unaware that my Morning Talk would reverberate merrily around our family for decades, and that the occupants of the school staffroom would all enjoy it too.

When I began to speak, the words came out effortlessly, loud and clear. I kept things short and to the point.

“This morning, on my way to school, I saw a dead hedgehog.  Are there any questions?”

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