Friday, 1 November 2013

Speaking And Listening

As part of my English GCSE, I had to partake in a couple of Speaking and Listening assessments, to test if I could listen to presentations given by classmates and go through the trauma of talking to 30-odd students, with a loud minority and a decent (but somewhat talkative) majority.

This is the nightmare of the first presentation.

From an early age speaking has never been one of my greatest attributes. I was completely non-verbal at nursery (so how they figured I knew my shapes and numbers and colours I'll never know), but at home I would gabble piles of invisible garbage, most likely in 'carrot language' (a language I made up but the name makes no sense seeing as a carrot cannot actually converse in any sort of language except 'Help me! I'm going to be eaten!' language).
Later on, I I had anxiety about approaching people I wasn't familiar with and groups of people, which never helped with the regular occurrence of 'get into groups, please' and my strong wish to socialise. (I was once told I was freaking people out when really, I was just trying to gather the courage to join in, as well as spot an opening where I could join in.) Even when it comes to group conversations these days, it's pretty hard to join in because I can't really detect when someone's coming to a close, but the other people in the group can and so are quicker to it.

Back to the presentation. Before we started to work on it we were taught stuff about speaking and listening in general. This was what the presentation was to be about. Then we were led to a computer room  to work on the presentation. In pairs.

We were the last pair to be paired. I felt he would be all right to work with (Because selective memory makes a bitch of us all sometimes) and he was the one that suggested it in the first place. I'll call him Aaron from now on.  That first lesson was a pretty good example of collaboration and being co-operative. Well, apart from the loud minority being a pain, but then again, when are they anything else?

But by the end of the preparation sessions, things had taken on a different turn. Aaron was now as collaborative as an out-of-control fire is to a fireman, and he had declared that he was not going to speak at all during the presentation. There was a slide where we were supposed to talk about our own experiences and had both our names on, and I decided to keep that there, just in case.

The presentation day came. I went to English as usual, and different people were called upon at different times to present. I spent most of that lesson thinking "I hope it's not me next... I hope it's not me next... Oh, it's those two. Safe. I hope it's not me next..."

In retrospect, I really should have hoped to be next - the waiting was as agonising as rubbing your body over with a cactus, and after it was done it would be over. Eventually, after everyone had said everything you could possibly say about how we speak and what influences that, it was our turn.

The few moments between being set up and starting were filled with anxiety and looking at this bunch of assorted students. The class felt more like an auditorium rather than a normal bunch of students.

It began.

I stumbled my way through the presentation, clumsily talking while trying my best not to look at the blue sea of carpet below me. I did all of the force times distance. (Force times distance = Work Done) It came to the slide about our own experiences, and I talked about mine. When Aaron's name popped up, he refused to speak about it.

At the end I was given a passing grade and some feedback.

He got a U.

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