Speaking in public generates enormous fear in most people. Nearly everyone dreads getting up in front of an audience and being judged.
So, learning public speaking presents an ideal opportunity in education, a kind of boot camp for facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Planning and practice, humility and patience, self-forgiveness and bravado --- all are part of the lesson plan.
When I began teaching public speaking to teenagers, I thought of it as a useful skill. It quickly became a template for tackling all hard work.
By age 12, all kids can figure out new skills through trial and error. It's the stuff of growing up. Public speaking is no different, except that adults have lost that agility for learning and they charge performance with stigma.
First we build proficiency at memorizing, stage presence, eye contact. Everyone is lousy at first. The initial assignments are simple: introduce a classmate, explain how to make cookies. The group listens, commiserates, and importantly, applauds. Applause is required, as is attentive listening.