Toastmasters is a hands-on course designed to strengthen the public speaking skills for transition year students in Terenure College and Our Lady’s. Unlike Debating, the content of speeches is not important, but being able to speak with confidence in front of a peer-group is highlighted instead. The emphasis is very much on learning by doing.
Students have to prepare and deliver at least two five-minute speeches on any subject they choose, as a selection from previous years will demonstrate: Dreams, Embarrassing Things, Travels with Family, Sister’s Wedding, Teenagers, Things that Affect Us, McDonalds, or Drugs. Speakers volunteer in advance of a meeting and have a week to prepare and practice the speech.
Each week, the students themselves evaluate each other’s speeches in a very constructive manner. Positive elements of a speech are affirmed and suggestions as to how to improve the delivery of a speech are shared in a very safe environment.
The students elect a team (president, vice-president, sergeant at arms and secretary) to run the meetings for four weeks at a time and so have the opportunity to learn how a meeting is conducted and the roles of various officers.
The course takes place on Thursday evenings from 7.15 p.m. until 9.15 p.m. in the College ‘Old Library’. Every meeting includes a break for tea/coffee, which seems to get longer and longer as the weeks go by, and participants get to know each other.
The course is facilitated by Michael Shanahan and every meeting includes a short (six minute) talk at the end of the meeting, a general evaluation of how the entire meeting went.
Each course ends with a ‘showcase’ night which parents and teachers attend and during which certificates are presented. At the end of the showcases, the participants will typically go out for a meal in a local restaurant.