I was asked to do a short talk on England today by my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, as the class are learning about countries this term. For some reason I’ve been finding the prospect terrifying and have been dreading it for weeks, in spite of the fact that there are only eleven kids in the class and I have three children of my own so you’d think I could handle it!
Last weekend I found it difficult to hide my disappointment and frustration when my eldest daughter, having been picked to represent her school in a verse speaking competition, scuttled head down onto the stage and proceeded to rattle of her lines in an inaudible mumble, hands firmly in pockets and then scamper off. I knew she could do so much better, but in retrospect, speaking in front of a panel of three judges and 50 odd parents must have been horrific. As a just punishment we had to sit for a further hour and a half listening to confident and precocious children from various other schools delivering their chosen poems perfectly and then had to sit through lengthy prize giving. My unrepentant seven year old daughter said she never wanted to be picked in the first place and was only concerned about having to miss the beginning of a friend’s birthday party due to be taking place that afternoon (it was a Saturday).
Now, having to do my own bit (on a far smaller scale) of speaking in front of others, I can finally empathise with my daughter’s nerves and now of course I feel very guilty for being so cross – of course she didn’t want to get up on stage and swagger about reciting poetry! Perhaps it was divine retribution.
Out of the eleven in the kindergarten class there are a few kids from Kenya, one from Norway, two from Scotland, a couple from South Africa, one from New Zealand originally and a couple from England. The mum who is going to talk about Kenya next week has arranged for a Masaai warrior to accompany her – how amazing, imaginative and how could I possibly top that!! The children will be beside themselves to have a real Masaai in their class!
Anyway, I spent a few hours this weekend trying to do some lateral thinking and illegally downloading photos of typical English scenes, feeling rather nostalgic. I found pictures of bluebell woods and daffodils, London buses and English ‘wild’ animals (foxes, badgers, deer etc), castles and stately homes, wondering if I would ever have time to show my children all of these things first hand.
Talking about the Queen, the flag, palaces, rolling hills and long dark winter nights was in fact quite fun. After finishing off my colour printer cartridge on an unusually long print run, I laminated the A4 pictures and when I held them up this morning the children were sweet, wiggling about on the carpet at my feet, shooting their hands up in the air at every opportunity:
‘I’ve been to London!’
‘I’ve been on a bus like that!’
When I asked for names of wild animals in England I got a few enthusiastic replies:
‘Lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah!’
It was only my daughter who had already been primed who shouted out:
England in early March feels worlds away at the moment. It’s hot, sunny, dry and dusty here at the moment and impossible to imagine low light levels, wrapping up warm and long winter evenings back home. I may not have managed to rustle up an English country squire or a morris dancer to rival the Masaai warrior of next week, but at least I had the advantage of ‘going first’ – and my ‘colour in the union jack’ activity was going well until their was a sudden agonising shortage of red and blue pencils.
What is it about public speaking that gets us all into a muck sweat? I suppose it’s all about preparation and practise. Next ordeal - Friday cake sale and Red Cross charity craft fair. Oh the agonies we put ourselves through!!