The Art of Public Speaking: Part 1 – Staff Oracy

All of our Leaders at Aureus are completing the Lead Practitioner Accreditation with the SSAT this year to keep the core business of Teaching and Learning first and foremost in our priorities. By January 10 of us will be accredited and then cohort 2 will start their journey.

We have coordinated our whole school foci by school priorities and I am focusing on Oracy. As an English Teacher turned Drama Teacher I think it is sacrilege that the GCSE has removed the Speaking and Listening component of the assessment, but understand why as this was part of the ‘gaming’ some schools reverted to, to secure GCSE passes.

As part of the accreditation you need to embrace an action research methodology. As a school we are a partner with Whole Education and we are using the Spirals of Enquiry research model designed by British Columbians Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.

spirals of enquiry

Part 2 of my blog on Oracy will be exploring my findings from my initial hunches and my scanning questionnaires, moving into my impact action plan and pilot next term. I am looking forward to working with Voice 21 on it.

On  a personal/ professional note this morning I was working through my epic to do list for what is the busiest few weeks in the calendar for Leadership Teams in secondary schools.

This week I will be doing the following public speaking:

Assembly – we rotate as a staff and I do an official one each half-term and then priority ones as things arise like Road Safety after an accident or Knife Safety after a scare. Tomorrow we launch our 11th value, Confidence and I will be exploring the barriers to self-confidence and challenging our students to control their Inner Critic, practise the Power Pose and compose a Daily Affirmation. This will also be our transition assembly for the 7s as they become 8s.

Year 6  Student Welcome – Monday and Tuesday we have our 240 students from primary coming up for a transition day. We cannot accommodate all of them on one day so have split the 2 days in half and have 120 tomorrow, then we repeat with the other 120 on Tuesday. My assembly at the start of the day is a welcome to Aureus, and at the end of the day is a reflection on their experience to start building the bridge to September.

Ofsted Inspection – Wednesday we have our Pre-Opening Ofsted Inspection which is a compliance check. No formal presentation but a lot of information to communicate!

Year 6 Parent Welcome – Thursday night we have 2 time slots for our 480+ parents (blended families means there will be standing room only for some!) They heard me deliver the who we are speech last October when we had been opened for 6 weeks. They have chosen us and I will be reminding them what they have chosen. The home-school agreement and parent, student, school partnership officially begins from this week. The acceptance of key messages will ensure we have a smooth start to the new academic year. I will be shooting the elephant in the room and discussing the recent media coverage too.

#WomenEd Event  – on Saturday I will be opening the regional event we are hosting but always consider #WomenEd to be the most supportive and warmest of audiences.

Add to the list Governors’ presentations each half-term and open mornings, recruitment events, our MH & WB events,  plus conferences we contribute to and training we host public speaking is a vital part of the role of a Senior Leader and especially as a Headteacher.

I am not sure I have even seen  public speaking as a key quality, skill nor experience in a Job Description, Person Specification or advert before though?

I have also reflected today on how much training we get on this key skill as teachers and leaders. It is such an important aspect of transition to leadership and especially to Headship why is there not more investment in this key life skill?

See the thread from my original tweet here. With a helpful graphic for public speaking and oracy tips from Voice 21 here.

Moreover, it is not just about what we say, how we say it, but our whole delivery. We have all seen the critiques speakers get on what they wear rather than what they say. I read a brilliant piece on Sheryl Sandberg and Hilary Clinton’s stylist a while back on tricks to avoid the focus being diverted to your hemline or heel height rather than your message!

Sheryl Sandberg, MBA’95, Facebook COO and author of “Lean In,” gave the closing keynote of the W50 conference at Harvard Business School. In celebration of this year’s 50th anniversary of women being admitted to the two-year MBA Program, Harvard Business School. Katherine Taylor/Harvard Staff Photographer

My relationship with oracy – I was loud and clear at primary school so was always the narrator, although I cried as I wanted to be an actor in the play! I learnt to earn brownie points at secondary by volunteering early to present. At university I confess I would read the first book each term and volunteer to go first so there was less pressure to finish the rest of the books that module.

When I became a Head of Year my students used to tease me I would shake like a leaf, so I stopped having anything in my hands. As an Assistant Headteacher I was told to slow down my delivery. As a a Deputy Headteacher  I was told to stand still/ behind a podium/ lectern. Each of these tips were helpful in their own way but we never really discussed content nor rhetorical techniques. I knew this from being an English and a Drama Teacher but how do staff from other subjects develop these skills?

I absorbed a lot from organising the Jack Petchey Speak Out and the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival for our students, again I was exposed to this as a subject specialist.

I wrote a blog reflecting on my #TEDxNorwichEd talk about battling with speech impediment and lisp for most of my life. I have not said my Rs right since I lost all 4 front teeth in Infant School, despite my Speech Therapists best attempts!  This was one of the personal hurdles I had to get over.

So I am going to plan a bespoke #WomenEd event next year focusing on Public Speaking and breaking down the aspects we need to refine and polish as educators to enable more women to be confident in the public arena.  We need more women speaking at edu-events, speaking on edu-panels and delivering the key notes at edu-events. As although this training from RADA looks fab I don’t think anyone nor any school should be paying £3,500!!womened public speaking

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • My LPD Spirals research project and the impact it will have on our students.
  • The impact of #WomenEd on growing the community’s confidence in public speaking.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Lee Jackson has very kindly just offered to send me a copy of his book.
  • I need to read the Spirals Surveys my focus group did for me last week to see if my hunches were right.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Brilliant sharing from my Twitter #PLN on this topic.
  • The SSF workshop on my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.
  • Public Speaking tips from Kym Andrews and Hilary Lyons through Jack Petchey Speak Out events and training.