Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lion's Den

"OH!  Look at you! LOOK at you! You look fabulous--LOOK at that necklace!"  With a shriek and jumping up to hug me, my friend Emily, the very person who had picked out and forced me to buy that necklace, ensured that an entire lobby full of people stopped their own conversation, turned to me and stared, each performing individual fashion autopsies.  As they reached the "nothing unusual, just another middle aged woman" conclusion, conversations slowly bubbled back to life.

I decided to count this as desensitization training.  In just over an hour, I had to walk into a room filled with strangers and all eyes would be on me, performing a different type of autopsy.

Dead woman walking.  Those who easily speak in public really can't understand the anxiety I felt all week leading up to this presentation.  Or how I tried to wriggle out of it, contacting the gentleman who invited me, wondering if his agenda had filled and if he might prefer me to provide a written comment instead?  "Of course not!" came his quick reply.  "Come whenever you can, we will work the meeting around your availability."


How bad could it be?  I mean, yes, it's a State Board.  But's it's a State Board of the Science Olympiad competition.  That must mean teachers, right?  Maybe 10?  Sitting around a table informally discussing what-ever-it-is that sciencey people discuss?  I could do that.

"How many folks should I prepare for?  Can you send me more particulars?"

About 30 came the reply.  Ok, more than I bargained for, but not an unmanageable number.

"...people from all over the state.  Associate Chancellors, deans of colleges and universities and some regular classroom teachers too."


"You can't even spell chancellor," my (former) BFF who has known me for 26 years asserted.  "You have no business speaking to this group.  What are you talking about again?"

The homeschool rule.  I launched into my reasoning as to why the rule was unfair and the chilling effect it was already spreading to other organizations that included home schoolers.

"Oh, rules?  Homeschool?  You'll be fine.  You love to talk about that stuff.  Just don't be antagonistic and self-righteous."


"Praise God!" shot back another friend when I wrote of how I wanted to throw up just thinking about talking to these highly credentialed people.  "Look who God is putting before you.  Step out in faith and see what He will do."  Maybe she had a point, but seeing as she directed training seminars and used to be in charge of a whole continent for a large corporation, speaking to groups probably didn't require quite the same leap of faith for her extroverted personality.

"Oh, and spend some time telling a bit about yourself to build rapport.  Don't just complain.  And stick to the point.  Don't veer off into controversial areas.  Remember, people get defensive over educational choices.  Be careful in what you say."

Beginning to sense an unflattering theme as to how my usual talk strikes those who know me best, I became even less sure I was the woman for the job.

The rapture didn't happen on my drive to the meeting, despite my fervent prayers.  I neither fainted nor puked during my presentation.  I didn't speak nearly as well as I had wanted to nor nearly as poorly as I expected I might.  The sciencey folks were for the most part warm and polite and moved to ask Science Olympiad to reconsider their national rule vis a vis Illinois.

Most importantly, God saw fit--wouldn't you know that friend of mine was right!--to place in the audience not just State Board folks, but a Science Olympiad National representative.  Not just a representative, but the man who will be in charge of all of Science Olympiad next year.  Whatever I said, God pricked that man's ears.  The grand poobah followed me into the hall, gave me his card, said he wanted to speak to me more about this and it was definitely something that needed attention.  He thought perhaps we should get together for lunch.

Food?  One on one?  Talking about homeschooling?  This I know how to do!

Yet, when I think I know how to do something, that's usually when the trouble starts.  Perhaps you should pray that God continues to keep me a bit off-kilter.  He seems to do his best work in those circumstances.



  1. I'm sure you were awesome! I'm actually surprised to hear you would be scared to speak in public! You are always totally calm and collected and know what you are talking about. I DO think the necklace probably helped, and I promise that next time, I won't scream! :)

  2. Oh, the necklace definitely helped. I thought of it as my Wonder Woman shield (did she have a shield?). I'm surprised that you're surprised that I was scared. I am fearless in prose and a total chicken in real life groups. Besides, hello, science? I was a history and philosophy major!