The Importance of Teaching Public Speaking in Schools

When I tell friends that I was on my high school’s speech and debate team, and that more specifically, I did something called extemporaneous speaking—a category where I had to make and then deliver a speech on a current events topic I drew in just half an hour—they tend to be horrified at the thought of trying to do the same thing, impressed that I was able to do this, or a little bit of both. Then, when I add that this experience with speech and debate significantly improved my comfort level with public speaking, some of the people who hear this say that they are so terrified of public speaking.

And it’s not just anecdotal experience that has shown me that a lot of us are afraid of public speaking. A survey of Americans’ top fears in 2020-21 found that 29% were either afraid or very afraid of public speaking. Another way to put this into context is that there are about as many Americans likely to be afraid of public speaking as they are of dying, theft of property, or being unemployed.[1] Our society, on average, is literally as fearful of public speaking as of dying. Let that sink in.

In spite of that fear, public speaking is an important aspect of the daily lives of most people of professional importance. Elected officials, major company CEOs, teachers and professors, nonprofit leaders, influential small business owners, clergy people, newscasters, and athletes are all among the groups of people who find themselves doing public speaking with some frequency. The professions that some, or many, of us aspire to involve some form of public speaking—the very thing that terrifies so many of us as well.

To make those aspirations a more feasible reality for those of us who fear public speaking, I think that public speaking needs to be a part of every high school’s curriculum. Not college—high school. It should be in the curriculum at that level because not everyone completes college, and not everyone even goes to college. Some people end up in positions straight out of high school where the skill of communicating clearly through word of mouth, which is something that comes with learning how to be a good public speaker, is absolutely vital. If we were to wait until college, people who end up in the military straight out of high school (the military being one such position where good communication skills are vital), to use one example, might not be as well-equipped with a public speaking skillset as they would otherwise if it were taught in high school.

As to how it is in the curriculum, it can take multiple forms. Classes with projects where students have to present their projects in front of a class might be a healthy way to give students exposure to public speaking, even if the focus of the class itself isn’t public speaking per se. However, I think that there can (and probably should) be a public speaking class that is a required part of every high school’s curriculum, for every student—not just a speech and debate team that students can choose to either join or not join.

Perhaps, by making sure that every student gets exposed with the opportunity to learn how to perfect their public speaking skills, we can better ensure that public speaking is not a fear that acts as a mental block to pursuing the things some of us hope to do one day.


[1] https://www.chapman.edu/wilkinson/research-centers/babbie-center/_files/Babbie%20center%20fear2021/blogpost-americas-top-fears-2020_-21-final.pdf

Why People Should Mask Indoors, Regardless of What a Judge Says

An image of masks

Most Americans who follow the news have at this point heard the ruling from a judge striking down federal mask mandates for airplanes, trains, and other forms of public transportation.

Some celebrate the ruling. Others look at it with dismay (me being one of them). I say that every single American should mask up on public transit, and other indoor areas, without giving a care about what some judge said.

Here’s the thing—judges are supposed to be legal experts, not public health experts. So to make an individual public health decision, such as whether one should wear a mask on a bus, based on a ruling from an apparent legal expert who’s not a public health expert, is simply ill-advised. It makes about as much sense as using a judge’s court decision to help you decide whether to take a vaccine, use a certain medicine, or use a certain treatment for an illness you are experiencing, because judges, in most cases, are probably not experts in the medical field.

And speaking of public health, the public health is such that it is simply not wise to drop the masks on public transit yet. It’s not wise because the virus, while not as deadly as it used to be, is claiming hundreds of lives a day,[1] and therefore remains far more lethal than a seasonal flu.[2] It’s not wise due to how it leaves the immunocompromised, who are at greater risk of serious illness or death than other populations, vulnerable to the virus. It’s also not wise because it leaves the little children who are currently unable to get vaccinated—those under the age of 5—vulnerable as well. And it’s not wise because we don’t know how many people end up with long COVID from the current strain of the virus.

Believe me, I don’t find masks comfortable at all, and I long for the day that I can make decisions on what to do with my daily life without having to keep the pandemic on my mind. But we are not there yet—not while we have a pandemic far deadlier than the deadliest flu seasons, and not while the lethal nature of it leaves some of the most vulnerable among us particularly vulnerable.

And yet, in spite of the imperative to protect these vulnerable populations, some people or individuals have a tendency to care more about their own freedom to be unmasked than the wellbeing of the vulnerable people around them. To those who feel that way, all I can say is that I hope and pray that you learn to care about someone other than yourself and your own desires; namely, that you learn to care about the most vulnerable among us in any situation, including and especially the one presented to us by the current pandemic.

And so, for the sake of caring for others, it is (still) time to mask up indoors.


[1] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

[2] The flu claims 12,000 to 52,000 lives each year. As of the time I am writing this piece, 346 Americans a day are dying of COVID on average, which means over 126,000 deaths if we were to multiply the average number of deaths by the number of days we have in a calendar year: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

Self-Care Tips for Long Hours

In the post I wrote last week on self-care tips, I said that I do believe that there is a place for themed self-care tips. One such themed self-care tip that I have experience in is with working long hours, hence my post for today.

Whether it be for a project in high school or college, or ending up working long evenings because of a job I have, I have some experience in trying to take care of myself through working really long hours in order to get work done.

Note that all of these tips are ones that are not time-consuming by design, not by any stretch.

So, without further adieu, here are my self-care tips for working long hours:

  1. Make sure you take breaks to stretch and stand up. I don’t know about others, but if I spend way too long at a computer, my productivity ends up tanking. However, by standing up and stretching, you give yourself a mini-break to recharge and refuel.
  2. When/if you have a longer break during your workday, try to do something relaxing that is not work related. It might be reading a book, taking a walk, praying (if you’re the religious type), or working on a crossword puzzle, but do something to take a break. Otherwise, you may run the risk of getting burnt out.
  3. Feed yourself. I’m going to put my foot down here—it doesn’t matter how busy you are or how much you “don’t have time” to eat. It’s difficult to work productively on an empty stomach, so eat! And ideally, eat a nutritionally balanced meal, not just a bunch of potato chips and a chocolate bar.
  4. Once you’re done with work for the night, take at least 10-15 minutes before you go to bed to do something relaxing. Speaking from my own experiences, if I don’t do that, I have a hard time sleeping and/or I have nightmares related to the work that I do. There was one time I worked three long days in a row, and by the end of it all I was having work-related nightmares—no fun!
  5. If you anticipate working long hours, do try and make sure you get adequate sleep both before and after your day of working long hours. I understand that this can sometimes be difficult depending on life circumstances, but try to get 7-8 hours of sleep before and after the long day of work you’re anticipating so that you’re well rested for the work you have to do.
  6. If you anticipate working several long days in short succession, and you accumulate time off with your job, consider taking a day off (or even a morning or afternoon off from work) after those long days are over so that you can get some rest. Some jobs result in your accumulating compensatory time off instead of overtime. If that is the case, then consider using some of it in order to get rest after working several long days in short succession.

These are a few of the tips I have for working long hours. If others have additional tips beyond what I have here, please let me know in the comments section below!

A Brief Update From New York City…

I know that on my blog, I am very open about the fact that I am a New Yorker. As such, some readers may be concerned about me, given the act of massive violence that happened today.

I am okay, as I live in a different part of New York City from where this happened. And thankfully, all the friends who I know live in Brooklyn are okay.

Nevertheless, please keep us here in New York in your thoughts, and if you are the praying type, in your prayers. Hopefully the suspect can be found so that we don’t have to worry about further violence from the person who caused it.

On Self-Care Tips

Some time ago, I wrote a post on how self-care is not selfish. I still believe that to be the case.

However, one major thing I’ve noticed is that some of the commonly offered tips are ones that some people cannot follow/carry out because of life circumstances. In other words, some (Many?) of the tips I see are not accessible to many, if not most, of us.

For example, here are a few common self-care tips and how they may not be practical for certain groups of people:

  1. Mental health days. Some self-care calls for mental health days, or days that people take off from certain things in order to care for themselves. A “mental health day” is something that many aren’t able to do because work schedules don’t allow for that.
  2. Bubble baths. Some self-care tips call for bubble baths in order to help relax oneself. However, some people don’t have time to make a quality bubble bath after a long day. And even for those who have the time, not every home or apartment has the tub that allows one to take a bubble bath.
  3. Walks. Taking a walk (a part of my self-care routine) is not possible in many parts of the United States and world because of a lack of sidewalks and places to walk.
  4. Massages. Much like with bubble baths, the idea of getting a massage is as a means of relaxing oneself. However, getting a massage costs money that many people do not have.
  5. Unplugging from technology. This is a really well-intended self-care tip, as for some of us technology of certain kinds (especially social media, I am finding) can have a toll on some of our mental health. That being said, I know people who work in jobs where unplugging from technology, which is what some self-care lists call for, is not possible.
  6. Therapy. A lot of people cannot afford therapy, even if a therapist might be helpful for certain people in certain circumstances.

Note that I am not saying that these tips are bad per se; for some people, these tips may be quite good. However, advocates of self-care need to recognize that certain tips may not work for everyone, and that circumstances in one’s life may keep one from implementing certain self-care tips.

What should one do with self-care tips when reading them, then? And what should one do when suggesting self-care tips to individual people?

If you’re reading self-care tips, my answer is that no matter what the author says, don’t feel badly if there are some elements of self-care that are absolutely impossible to work into your life right now. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to follow certain self-care tips.

As for those who suggest self-care tips to individual people, I recommend just being sensitive to the fact that life circumstances may keep people from following certain tips you recommend. That doesn’t make either you or the person you’re suggesting the tips to bad people—it is just a fact of life that not everything works for everyone.

One final, but relevant, note I’ll make is that there is a place for themed self-care tips. I think there need to be posts on self-care for new dads, self-care for those with long hours, self-care for essential medical workers during COVID, and more. Sometimes, the best self-care tips are from those experiencing circumstances in life similar to yours. I will hold up to my end of the bargain by writing a self-care post next week on self-care tips for working long hours, because I’ve been there before.

I am not critical of the idea of self-care recommendations; to the contrary, they are needed and great. However, it is important to remember that not everything works for everyone.