Teaching public speaking and secretly loving it

I taught my second class on public speaking last week. I tweeted about it and mentioned it on my facebook but I rarely brought it up in the real ‘offline’ world. I know I should just get over myself but, despite all my chat of being entirely comfortable with my speech, I still feel awkward telling people that I teach public speaking.


As a general rule, most people who do hear about it are fiercely supportive. Betraying none of the skepticism that I assume they quietly harbor.

And yet there are some people who openly frown when I tell them, whose face seems to question if I realize that I stutter. They ask me what will happen if I block on every word? They prod and poke…am I not nervous? I answer them honestly…yes. I’m petrified. I call my sanity in to question hours before each class begins.

However, my nerves do make me relate to my students…perhaps more deeply than is convenient. I understand any fears that they might have. I have walked in their shoes.

Ultimately, I believe that nerves are normal for all of us. Once the moment comes and we do get up there to speak, it is never as terrifying as we had dreamed up. In fact it is oddly wonderful.

As much as I kvetch about the class beforehand, once I am there, looking at their faces, I realize that my fears are ungrounded. That I love teaching. I love sharing ideas and potentially helping others. I love speaking and stuttering and not worrying about being perfect. I love feeling that I am making an audible mark, however small, in the world.

More than that, I love the people I meet. I love the fact that working with Skillshare intimately ties me into the pulsing heart of the New York startup scene. The students in my class are uniformly impressive. They are entrepreneurs and app creators and management consultants and teachers. They are young and ambitious and looking to improve.

The New York startup scene, particularly the tech scene, has a momentum in the city that can sweep you up. Most of the people are working for startups or creating them. It is intimidating and supportive all at once. There’s a network to tap into, a creative flow of ideas.

However much fear I feel in the days running up to the class, it is worth it. More than worth it.  It is my lifeline to the city and an introduction to strangers I would never otherwise meet.

4 thoughts on “Teaching public speaking and secretly loving it

  1. Great post! Loved it. I think every one of us has a secret dream we harbor and when we actually get to do it, of course its going to be amazing. I sort of feel the same way sometimes – that I am not supposed to feel good about something I worrried about and then it turns out to be more than OK, but amazing.
    I was brought up to think its bragging if we talk about our strengths and successes – it may be a uniquely female thing. Men seem to have no problem tooting their own horn.
    I think I have always secretly wanted to be a “rock star” and shine in some arena. I am edging myelf closer and closer in fact to doing things which I have always wanted to do, but never felt the courage to do.
    I have a question to ask you,that I will email off-line.
    Great stuff – thanks for sharing this!

  2. Amazing thoughts Pam and looking forward to hearing the question…I’ll keep my eye on my email account.

  3. Hey Katherine your post was so inspiring. Its amazing your acceptance and openness about being scared but inspired and excited at the same time when it comes to teaching. I love how you talk about the efforts and achievements of your students and how that transcends how you feel about your stutter (Tell me if ive misunderstood you).

    I am moving to Massachusettts next friday for 2 and 1/2 months and im going to be teaching children guitar. I am quite nervous , i wonder if you have any tips, brit to brit.

    Take care

  4. Lesley – amazing to hear that you found the post inspiring. That means so much to me! You totally summarized how I feel about teaching. Congrats on the move to Massachusetts. I get the nerves…new place, new people, new situations. Generally, Americans are incredibly welcoming and I’ve always found that it has helped having a British accent over here so you have that on your side already! In terms of the teaching, you’re obviously a great teacher (hence the move across the ocean) and the students will see that very quickly. Look the kids in the eye, talk about your stutter, meet as people as you can, enjoy it. Good luck and let me know how it goes when you start working in the states.

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