What I learned about speech-writing, in Grade 8

I promised myself that this is my year to declutter, and I’ve been pretty consistent about chipping away at my stuff. Every so often, I get a little “reward,” an item from my past that I’m excited to rediscover.

Yesterday, I found some handouts from my Grade 8 English teacher, Mr. Dutcher, including his guidelines for making a speech.

As an adult, I’ve learned how to speak in public, but in school, there were few things that I found more intimidating.

Looking at the typewritten guidelines, I wondered how relevant I would find them  now, and whether I’d internalized any of the advice without being consciously aware of doing so.

“Speak about your points in a conversational manner.” Yup. That’s a big one for me. I do write a “script” for longer speeches, but I always try to make it sound like something I would say if I was just talking off-the-cuff. No one likes to be read to, at least not when they’re listening to a speech.

“Choose a topic of genuine interest to yourself and your audience.” No argument there.

But the next tip gave me pause for a moment, because I’m writing a memoir on the year I lost my dad. “Avoid subjects that deal with death and similar topics.” No, not a problem. I’m not in Grade 8 any more.

The guidelines touch on eye contact, humour, how to illustrate points and deal with nervousness, even how to walk across the stage before beginning (“crisply, thinking only of your speech.”)

Given that I became a writer, it’s strange I struggled with English all the way through high school. Even though I was an avid reader, it wasn’t until I was in university that I became adept at writing essays and papers.

But I have fond memories of Mr. Dutcher’s classes – learning how to speed-read, expanding my vocabulary with words like “triskaidekaphobia” and “ennui,” and – best of all – studying the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Even though I don’t remember making any speeches, I must have – otherwise, why would he have given us the guidelines?

I can’t bring myself to get rid of them just yet.







What I learned in Grade 8 home economics

Omigod, I found my Grade 8 Home Ec notebook this week!

home ec notebook *Looking through it, I realized that I’ve been saving recipes for longer than I remember. Maybe it didn’t “count” when I cut them out of magazines in junior high because it was for school, not for me, but I know it had an long-term influence.

From a cooking standpoint, what fascinated me most was the section on “Creative Meal Planning.”

In handwriting that was much rounder and fancier than it is now, I listed the “important elements of meal planning,” including “pleasing colours and attractive & varied combinations, wise use of food, and variety in flavour, colour, shape, texture, temperature.”

I used the term “kitchen artist” in one section. I doubt I came up with that one on  my own. There were references to eye appeal, taste appeal, and colour combinations. No wonder I see cooking as creative and satisfying.

It’s funny, Home Ec wasn’t my favourite subject, even though we got to eat everything we made. There were a lot of rules and expectations, so it wasn’t strictly a “fun” class.

But I remember some interesting dishes, one of which inspired a recipe for sautéed red cabbage, apples and sesame seeds on this blog a couple of months ago. The original recipe calls for white vinegar instead of apple cider or umeboshi, only one apple, and brown sugar instead of (preferably dark) maple syrup. I prefer the updated version.

I have red cabbage in the fridge. Now I know what I’m going to do with it.