By Ketaki Tavan ’19

This past Friday’s LeBow Oratorical competition reminded me of what now feels like a distant high school memory: my 5-person, trimester-long Public Speaking class that I opted to take instead of Driver’s Ed. Every time I’m asked about my favorite class I’ve taken at Pingry or course recommendations from classmates, I unfailingly circle back to Public Speaking.

I initially gravitated towards the course due to an interest in improving my speech writing and delivery skills. We worked on these skills every day through observation, discussion, and practice. Class flowed freely and in accordance with what was happening around us — if there was a major speech at Pingry or in the wider world that week, we’d make it a point to discuss what worked and what didn’t, what we’d do differently and how we’d emulate the high points.

The practical speech writing and delivery skills (like cold-reading, for example) I took away from the course should not be overlooked — they’ve stuck with me to this day, and thanks to my experience with them I’ve pushed myself to give speeches to various circles in my community several times since the course ended. But personally, what made the course so special weren’t these takeaways that I anticipated when signing up, but rather the takeaways that I truly didn’t see coming.

Because of the nature of speech writing itself and the frequency with which we did it in the class, Public Speaking became a vehicle through which I was able to really process my ideas and feelings. I came out of the course having reflected on some of my own experiences and views on the world as well as some of the most effective ways to share them. I left with a portfolio full of these reflections that will not only inspire future pieces but also serve as a unique form of a diary documenting the ideas I grappled with throughout the course.

Not only did Public Speaking allow me to learn more about myself, but it also allowed me to learn more about my classmates. Because of the vulnerable and personal nature of speech writing, when I listened to the speeches my peers brought to class each day, I learned so much about their personalities, views, and how they contributed to a truly diverse Pingry community. Speeches often sparked political, social, and academic discussions where we learned about each of our viewpoints and, in terms of speech writing, how to strengthen them rhetorically. We learned to debate thoughtfully and intelligently with each other because it was the way we were taught to craft arguments through our speeches.

My class became a mini-community of friends who came in to each meeting excited to hear what the others had to share. We learned from each other and grew closer because of what each of us shared at the podium on any given day. This was a collaborative experience through which we took inspiration and were constantly offered advice by our peers. Each of my pieces became what felt like a group-effort from several people who really cared about the final product.

While Public Speaking may not catch most students’ eyes when searching for courses, I encourage my classmates to consider the hidden treasures that the class holds. An opportunity to learn skills that will universally serve you well in the future, as well as engage with the diversity of thought and personality within yourself and your community, Public Speaking truly is worth a trimester from each and every student.