Being Embarrassed is Good: The Public Speaking Class at Pentucket



Riley Bucco, Writer

Giving a presentation in front of a group of people is not something that creates a warm and fuzzy feeling for most people. It is not uncommon for somebody’s brain and body to go into complete shock and have no idea how to continue. Over 77% of the population has some form of anxiety relating to public speaking. 

As scary as it sounds, the public speaking class at Pentucket should be a mandatory class for many reasons. Mrs. McGowan; the theatre and public speaking teacher, says, “I think it would be a smart choice for everyone to take the class primarily because it is useful in every part of your life. We can’t get through life without communicating with others”.

Throughout a normal day at Pentucket, kids are challenged to get out of their comfort zones in educational settings, but nothing compares to the exercises that are practiced in Mrs. McGowan’s public speaking class. 

McGowan makes an awesome point about the current circumstances and says, “We have stopped developing our face-to-face communication skills due to communicating through our phones and computers. We need to do something about that, there isn’t a job out there that doesn’t require you to talk and communicate with others”.


It is sad to think that face-to-face communication is slowly decreasing, and now with the masks, it is at an all-time low. Masks prevent people from reading facial expressions and cause muffled speech, so increasing good communication practice throughout the day is beneficial to everyone. Although masks need to remain on everyone’s face, speaking and interacting with other people is better than nothing. 


Additionally, when giving presentations in other classes, teachers expect students to know public speaking skills, so points being taken off for not showing these skills can be frustrating. To prevent these problems, the school should mandate everyone to take this class, which will boost everybody’s presentation scores. 


Personally, on my first day of Public Speaking, I went into it with a very negative attitude. I thought speaking in front of people was the worst possible way to spend 50 minutes of my life daily. Little did I know, this class would reshape who I am and brought out a side of me that I had no idea existed. Yes, I am extremely uncomfortable at times, but I now know that the only way for me to grow is to be embarrassed and come out of my comfort zone as much as possible.  

When asked about an inspiring story of a student coming out of their shell, McGowan told this story: “This one student kept telling me she just wasn’t ready. I let her be and she participated in all the other activities. Then one day, with just two weeks left, she marched up to me at the beginning of class and said, “Mrs. McGowan; I’m ready. Can I give a presentation today?” Well, it wasn’t the game plan for the day but I was NOT going to miss this opportunity. I said, “class, please sit down. We are going to hear a speech today”.


We all were a little nervous for her because we knew she was struggling with the notion of being alone up there. In fact, I think we were all holding our breath. Well, she got up there calmly, confidently, and SMILING! and gave one of the most engaging, dynamic speeches I’ve heard from a student. She incorporated all of the skills we had  practiced in class. When she finished the class erupted in a standing ovation. We were all astounded by both her courage and her presentation, it was a great moment!”. 


It is stories like these that make me wonder why we are not put in more classes to stretch our comfort zones and explore new feelings and experiences. Although the administration may be afraid of students disliking a class, electives are only half a year so the risk is worth taking. 


You may be wondering what we even do in this class. Well, firstly, we have a prompt on the board every day and answer it creatively. After taking a walk to practice what we came up with using good inflection, articulation, and confidence, we recite it on stage in front of the class. From there, we have occasional projects or other activities to practice strategies that are necessary while speaking in front of a group or audience. “It’s all about becoming more confident and comfortable speaking AND working with others”, McGowan states. 


When McGowan was asked about the curriculum, she said, “We take public speaking and all of these soft skills and break them down into very small pieces by practicing them daily. Eventually, we put them all together. The end result is a student who is not only a dynamic speaker but a confident, capable communicator.”


I know to some this sounds miserable and embarrassing, but I also thought that before I realized how important these skills are. If you are still not convinced that Mrs. McGowan’s class would benefit you, try to think about her favorite quote- “If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” This quote says it all: nothing good will come from staying in your comfort zone your whole life. I have fully embraced the feelings that are felt on stage, saying things that are “weird” or uncomfortable. 


McGowan compares public speaking to a real-life situation by saying, “Remember how many times you fell or stopped when you were learning to ride a bike? But then finally you figured out how to keep your head up, make the pedals move, and keep your balance all at the same time! Then you were off and it was exhilarating! Now think if you had quit because you were embarrassed about falling down. You never would have had that feeling of exhilaration!”

No matter how good or bad at public speaking you are, improving over time and beginning to feel more confident while standing on stage is guaranteed. Next time you are trying to think of an elective to fill a slot in your schedule, give Public Speaking a try.