‘This Person Was Just So Dedicated and Was Always There for the Kids…’

15th of June, 2011 ·  2 Comments

Or: All teachers need to take a public speaking class

I went to my daughter’s choir recital a week or two ago. She sang great, and so did all the kids. It was almost like they’d practiced all semester and learned something along the way.

But the teacher, who’d been doing the job for about 13 years, seemed as though she’d never spoken to an audience before. She gave unclear instructions, rambled, and was generally a mess.

At the end of the recital, while she still had the lights down and a captive audience, she took the time — too much time — to honor some people in the most rambling and generic way possible.

“This next person is so dedicated, she showed up to every practice, she drove the kids around and helped with skirts and makeup and was just so… dedicated and dependable. And I always knew I could call her and ask her to get something from the store or bring scissors she would do it.”

Look, just because your audience is captive doesn’t mean we need to be abused.

I bring it up because the choir teacher is not unique. I don’t think there’s a single teacher on earth who knows how to honor colleagues and volunteers properly.

Let me help.

First, all teachers follow the same formula when honoring folks when they have a captive audience. They shouldn’t do it at all. It’s about the kids, not the grown-ups. Put the grown-ups in the program. But I feel that’s a fight for another day.

Here’s the formula:

  1. Apology. They know what they’re doing is wrong. But they don’t know what else to do. Usually, it’s in the form of, “before you all go, there are some people I want you to know about.” The main problem is we were all getting up to go, and now we have to sit back down. Sitting through the not-great singing wasn’t enough, damn you.
  2. Long-winded preamble. “This person did this, did that, was always there, was so dedicated, was so dependable, was a rock, did such a good job with so little, loved the kids, was loved by the kids, did such a good job…” This method does nothing to build the anticipation, regardless of what you might think.
  3. Announce the name of the person. This is what your sense of drama says is a good idea? Give a generic preamble that could be applied to anyone and then announce a name?
  4. Awkwardly shuffle the last person off to generically announce the next person.

Educators: stop. This must stop. You’re not honoring your people properly, you’re cheating the kids, and you’re keeping tired adult butts in hard metal chairs. This crap leads parents to take it out on their kids. Protect the kids!

Here’s how.

First, announce who it is you’re honoring. Use their name. Make them stand up if they’re in the audience, make them come up to the podium if they’re not. Having them come up for 12-¼ seconds after your stupid preamble isn’t doing them justice. No, get them up, get them recognized.

Next talk about why they’re being honored. While they’re standing. And when you’re honoring them, remember that everyone involved in education is dedicated. Everyone. Administrators, teachers, secretaries, lunch-ladies, custodians, and room-moms are all dedicated. That’s why you’re honoring them. Don’t beat it into the ground.

Instead, tell a quick — remember all those butts in seats want to get up and go — anecdote that sums up their personality and what they were all about. Give a concrete, measurable explanation.

Thank the person directly. Look into the honorees eyes and say “thank you.” They’ll get the hell off stage and let you get to the next person whom you’ll treat the same way.

Get ’em up, tell us why, get ’em off, get us home. Don’t be a rambling loser with no direction bent on earning my ire and disgust.

It’s easy. If you follow my my 1-step plan1, you’ll be just fine from here on out.


  1. Step 1: do what I say.

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