I Make Some Suggestions, to No Avail

Right now, my speech classes are researching and writing informative speeches. They've done this before, but at that time, I gave them a HUUUGE list of topics and made them choose from it. This time, they get to choose for themselves.

So here's the thing: when they had to choose from the list, they complained. "This is boring, Ms. Flower," they would whine. "I can't talk about this for five whole minutes!" And I would always be like, "Okay, Lizzie Borden is NOT boring. And if you can talk about your nail polish for twenty-five minutes, you can CERTAINLY talk about this for one-FIFTH of that time, so suck it up and get to work!" [Teaching has few real benefits, but one of the things I do love is telling people to quit complaining and start working. I often wish I could say the same to grown-up people as well.] Now, given the opportunity to choose their own topics, there is even more whining, because now, I guess, I've given them TOO MUCH freedon, and they just can't handle it. There really is no winning with teenagers.

One of my classes was in the library the other day to do some research. Some of my kids were really bottoming out, stressed over deciding between the 600 million possible topics that were available to them. On the other hand, I had some others who said, "I can't think of anything to write about!" [I did have one restriction: If you've already done a speech on a certain topic, choose something else. This was mainly borne out of desperation and self-preservation, because if I hear ONE MORE speech about video games, chicken, war, or military fighter planes, there might be some bloody retribution.]

Okay, I totally hate it when kids say they have nothing to write about. Especially considering that WE WERE IN A LIBRARY. Like, why not just let an encyclopedia fall open and do a speech on whatever's on that page? Or choose something from your real life that you're interested in and tell us about it? Or combine a paper that you have to write for your history or English class with this assignment and kill two birds with one stone? How hard can it be?

So I was tossing out topics left and right. And you have to know this about me: I like the weird stuff. And I am going to be telling you to research things I am interested in. And those things might be historical in nature, or they may have something to do with mummies, or you might find yourself reading all about Edgar Allan Poe; it's really a crapshoot, and it's totally based on what I might have seen on television the previous day.

One girl thought she might talk about Catholicism, and I was like, "WHAT about Catholicism? I love you, but I only want to listen to you for FIVE MINUTES." [I should explain: My classes did impromptu speeches a couple weeks ago, and I told them to prepare a two minute speech, and I wound up listening--horrified--to a sixteen minute speech about some sort of horrifically violent video game that I'm sure should be illegal. I do not want to go through that again.]

"I don't know," she said, and she started getting all wishy-washy about it. And I gave her a list of possibilities: Catholic beliefs. History of Catholicism. How they elect the Pope. The Stations of the Cross. Saints.

And here is where I had an epiphany. "You could talk about the Incorruptibles!" I scream-whispered (because we were in a library). "They are these saints that are sort of miraculously preserved and their bodies don't decay." This, of course, comes from my love of mummies.

She seemed less than impressed, so I kept going along the same lines. "Okay, I just saw a show about this one saint--Peter? Patrick? Valentine?--whose body makes perfume and then they sell it!" She perked up a little at this, and some of the kids around her looked interested too. "Who was that? They buried him in this church in Turkey, but then these Italians came and stole his body and buried him in Italy ... WHO WAS THAT? I JUST SAW IT! ... and it was really interesting how they told it and they looked at his bones and made his face WHO WAS THAT GUY???" I was really getting into it, and it really bothered me that I couldn't remember. *

At any rate, she lost interest when I couldn't remember who it was, and said, "I think I'll talk about purses."

It's St. Nicholas. Much more interesting than purses.

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