How best to learn the art of public speaking? By doing it of course! And this is just what Eva did this week: she dove in as the youngest exhibitor at the 2-day North Dakota Educators Association (NDEA) teachers convention. For a fee, anyone can rent a booth space, so 8-year old Eva set up shop to promote her books and her writing lecture videos to the hundred or so teachers who browsed through.
And what an experience it was! Eva, who struggles with shyness, began the day tugging at her name badge, looking at the table instead of her audience, and speaking just above a whisper. I stood near her to offer moral support, but most of my interactions with her were between visitors, when I could offer gentle coaching such as telling her to hold her shoulders back, put her hands at her side and look at people in the eyes.
With each teacher who came by, she got better and better. Slowly, over the course of the first three hours, she raised the volume of her voice, looked up more confidently, and found her words more easily. The teachers who spoke with her were enthusiastic and receptive, and their positive feedback also helped Eva find her voice.
The first day of the conference lasted from 8-4, with a small break that we took for lunch. The second day lasted from 8:30 until noon. Over the course of the two days, she probably spoke with almost 100 teachers and sold 25 books. Half a dozen teachers from all over the state asked if she would come as a guest speaker to their elementary classrooms. She and I together were invited to guest present on a teachers’ webinar to discuss the use of technology in education. And the kind folks who run the NDEA asked if they could feature her in their next newspaper.
It was incredibly exciting, not just for Eva and me, but for the teachers too. We forged fabulous relationships over the two days and had wonderful conversations about project based learning, the use of technology in the classroom, and the challenges of educating gifted kids. Eva came away with a million new ideas for her next book and interesting ways to expand and promote it, such as short films, designs for clay figures, and printable pictures that you can access from her website.
Though she was shy and nervous at the beginning of the day 1, by the end, she easily talked to anyone who came by her booth, and even reached out to passersby to begin the conversation. She is now eager to speak to classes face to face.
What you may not know about Eva is that just two years ago, she was the kid who hid behind her mama’s legs when she was introduced to anyone new, especially adults. The change I’m seeing in her is remarkable as her confidence in herself as a writer and teacher grows.
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