March 24, 2010

My Semi-Secret Neurotic Achilles Heel

Nearly every semester in high school - without fail - an intrepid English teacher would decide to tackle a play of some sort, usually Shakespeare. And instead of asking us to go home and read the plays ourselves, take notes and discuss it in a week (because that wouldn't burn class time), the prevailing wisdom at the time was to assign parts and read the play during class. So whenever the words this week we're going to read the play... were uttered, my gut reaction was to:

1. Hide behind whoever happened to be in front of me when the long, important parts were assigned.

2. Be absent the day parts were handed out and hope against all hope that all the parts would be covered by the time I made my triumphant return after a day of feigning illness and watching The Price Is Right and I Dream Of Jeanie reruns

3. Quickly skim the text, locate the smallest most insignificant part, and proactively volunteer for it in the hope that it would allow me to sidestep any of the longer parts

4. Suck it up and and roll with it.

I usually went with the final two options because I'm not a complete coward. But I loathed this whole process. Why? Because if there's one thing I dread beyond all else - with the exception of spiders, Britney Spears, or spiders that look like Britney Spears - is reading out loud in front of people. I have no clue as to why. When I read aloud, I feel completely and utterly incompetent and about as smart as, well, Britney Spears. I profoundly lack confidence. And it's odd because I'm a decent public speaker though when I do speak publicly, I want to know what I have to say cold so I never have to read it. But to read in public? Not my thing.

Reading out loud, my semi-secret neurotic achilles heel. What's yours?

Posted by Chris at March 24, 2010 7:23 AM

Confrontation. Not like the, "let's get it on, we're going to have a fist fight" kind but more of the, I have to ruin you're weekend and talk about really unpleasant and uncomfortable shite kind.

Its kept me from management positions as well as probably getting walked over a little bit more than I should be, but in the long run, if I can keep the peace between everyone, I'm ok with taking the hit.

I'm a giver, it's what I do...hahaha

Hope everyone is feeling better soon Chris.


Posted by: JJ at March 24, 2010 7:40 AM

I agree with you about reading out loud in was so boring, and i read much faster silently anyhow. Also, whenever i had to read something aloud I never knew what I had just read.

But I do like reading stories to my daughter. :)

Posted by: miabean at March 24, 2010 8:04 AM

Public speaking. Only it's not exactly a secret. Once in high school, I willingly took a big fat ZERO on an assignment rather than get up and do a presentation.

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 24, 2010 9:04 AM

Now tell me you're not afraid to read aloud to your kids. You can't be. You read chapter books to Mia all the time.

Posted by: k8 at March 24, 2010 9:05 AM

I am afraid people will think I'm lazy, or that I'm not doing my share. I have three kids, a part-time job, a writing gig, etc., etc. -- but no matter where I go I can't give in to the "temptation" to just sit and talk to people like a normal human being. I have to be cleaning up or SOMETHING.

Posted by: Julie at March 24, 2010 9:16 AM

Typing in front of people. I'm an 80wpm guy and am fairly flawless when I'm alone, but when I have to show others what I'm doing I flub up a lot. I've found recently though, that with practice I've actually improved. I'm less nervous now having been forced to practice.

Posted by: Brad at March 24, 2010 10:38 AM

While I understand your contempt for reading aloud in class — and agree that it may not be the easiest way to comprehend Shakespeare, what with semi-illiterate teens stumbling over the Olde English and all - my son had to read Romeo & Juliet his freshman year (as we all did)and his teacher-slash-football-coach assigned pages to read at home at night. I now believe the only thing worse than struggling through Shakespeare aloud in class is attempting to read it all on your own for the first time at the age of 14.

I'm sure if you and I were high school English teachers we could come up with a far better option than these. But alas, no one's asking us.

Posted by: kalisa at March 24, 2010 11:30 AM

Thanks for putting the image of spiders that look like Britney Spears in my mind.

Posted by: Kevin Spencer at March 24, 2010 12:22 PM achilles heel...public speaking (not the same as public reading) is not my thing, but I can do it if it's a topic I know a lot about.

What I thought about after reading your first paragraph was, I hated that too! Only for different reasons. I was in AP-track English for four years and you'd think those kids would have a handle on Shakespeare (which we did read every year), but they tripped over the words and would read in a flat, monotonous voice so that it was incredibly boring to have to endure a class reading. It was sort of like hearing random words read from a dictionary. I would much rather have read it at home and had a class discussion.

Posted by: Brooke at March 24, 2010 12:38 PM

I agree with all the arguments against having students read plays. I taught AP English, and sometimes we would read scenes. Painful. It's better to just watch a professional production of the damn thing. And, yeah--research shows that when you read aloud, you don't retain as much because you're too worried about stumbling and subjecting yourself to public humiliation.

My Achilles' heel? Talking on call-in radio shows. I've done it maybe 3 times because I just had to get my 2 cents in; and each time, my heart was pounding and my voice shaking. It's weird because I can talk in front of a class or a conference without much anxiety.

Posted by: beta dad at March 24, 2010 1:14 PM

Im definately more of a "behind the scenes" kind of person. Avoidance has always worked well for me.

PS I am terrified of spiders. Thanks so much for the image.

Posted by: soccermom at March 24, 2010 1:34 PM

Yep, it's mine too. But also singing in public. And during my teens I had a good voice and was asked to sing at events. I cannot tell you how many times I threw up with nerves before a performance!

Posted by: Maribeth at March 24, 2010 1:50 PM

Public speaking ever since I hyperventilated in 6th grade, got over it and then hyperventilated during a speech in college (where my then best friend made fun of me for weeks after). Oh and confrontation. I'd rather assume I know what page your on instead of discussing it with you. It gives me a stomach ache. And now that I think about it, reading out loud in class was quite awful also. Thanks for bringing up those memories. :-)

Posted by: Lizzle at March 24, 2010 2:02 PM

I'm actually rather jealous, as we only did this once. Then again, I got to do the role of Katrina from Taming of the Shrew and had an absolute blast, far more than if I'd actually had to go on stage.

Posted by: Hannah at March 24, 2010 4:39 PM

I like to read aloud to the teens I work with! Except that the books I read to them are often filled with swears, and I try not to read those loud and proud. I usually scramble to cover instead. I love to swear, personally. However, I feel that I shouldn't be f-bombing minors no matter what The Veep chooses to do.

Posted by: Sphincter at March 24, 2010 9:13 PM

I love to read aloud, ever since I was the narrator for my school Christmas play when I was 7. I got to dress as an angel :)

But if I ever have another paid job (receptionist for my husband's office doesn't count) I'll be very surprised (also terrified). I had middle-of-the-night freak-outs for months after having to leave two professional jobs when my kids were little, and I just can't face it again. Not ever. Makes me sweat just thinking about it, so I have to go eat a brownie now. Thanks.

Posted by: Jo MacD at March 25, 2010 5:20 AM

Standing up and giving presentations. I am fine in a meeting setting or in a group, but don't ask me to stand at a mike or a podium.

Posted by: Nat at March 25, 2010 11:24 AM

I'm the dork who loves reading aloud. :P

Posted by: Heather at March 25, 2010 2:30 PM