As I wound my way through the leafy streets of yet another Barcelona suburb early this morning, I asked my self once again why I agreed to teach the third edition of ESADE’s Social Leadership: Public Speaking course, when it is such a hassle compared with other courses that are just taught on campus. Five minutes into the third two-hour session taught by my second and third year Business Administration Degree students, I remembered: it really does make a difference.
Often when you teach you are left with the question of whether you have added any value to the students, particularly in these days of “clientization of the class” and “edutainment”. Did the lesson plan you carefully designed mixing videos, presentations, exercises, demonstrations, readings and so on, actually help them to learn anything? Did they leave the class inspired and able to explain the concepts to their friends and family? Will it help them in the future? In the Social Leadership course you can see it.
ESADE degree students are first given an intensive 16 hour course on public speaking, where they focus on techniques, content and empathy and nerves. Next they have to apply this, adapting the content, adding new ideas and using their project management and teamwork skills to plan how they will teach what they have learnt in three two-hour sessions to students in local secondary schools. Finally they have to step up and practice public speaking live as they lead these classes.
In Spain, public speaking is not taught in schools, neither is drama or anything similar. This is often abundantly clear when you attend events even at top companies in major cities. Yet like everywhere else, companies do expect potential job candidates to be able to express themselves well. A lack of communication skills here, as elsewhere in the world can be a big decider on whether you get the job or not (something you shouldn’t underestimate in a country with around 40% youth unemployment!).
The other large item on the top of the National To-Do List is to improve the (generally abismal level) of English, a language required by some 87% of jobs in the country. So the idea (and reality) is that in teaching public speaking in English in local schools, the degree students are at very least inspiring young people to work on communication skills in English, and in this way they are contributing to alleviate a social need. This isn’t a kind of one-way philanthropy, but the mythical win-win situation, so hard to hunt down.
Today I saw students who were sullen in my class, grinning from ear to ear as they saw the effect they were having in the schools. I saw introverted students, often seemingly reserved and stand offish, connecting with they class explaining calmly how they tackled dealing with nerves. I saw groups who groaned when they realised who they would be working with, rise to the challenge and succeed as a team. Most of all, I perceived the sparkle of inspiration, commitment and contentment often only attainable when you can see that what you have created has made a really big difference.
For the six of us university lecturers, who taught over 120 university students in English, Spanish and Catalan, it’s amazing to see the impact they have had in 40 classes taught in 18 different schools and centres (that’s something like 1000 young people). Of course it also helps you keep the faith as Google Maps leads you up yet another road you can’t drive down in a part of the city you have never seen.