How StoneBridge Develops Public Speaking Confidence in Students

There is one job and life skill that people need above all others and it may not be what you think. In an article in Inc. magazine, writer Marcel Schwantes quotes Warren Buffett: 

In simple Buffett-speak, the dividend on your public speaking investment will pay off for the rest of your career. He says it’s “an asset that will last you 50 or 60 years. And it’s a liability – if you don’t like doing it or are uncomfortable doing it… It’s a necessary skill.”

Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is a common social phobia that affects anywhere from 25-75 percent of the population. At StoneBridge School, much emphasis is placed on developing public speaking skills in students to equip them with the life-long confidence they need to navigate their future careers and places of influence.

StoneBridge students from pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade participate in an annual Speech Meet every March. The process starts in the classroom, where each child recites a scripture, poem, or passage from a book. The top students from each classroom then advance to compete in front of a panel of judges, their fellow students, faculty, and parents.

“Developing stage presence and elocution is an important aspect in preparing servant leaders, giving children plenty of opportunities to gain the confidence and skills for excellent communication,” Barbara Wells, Lower School Principal, explained. “God uses language to communicate with us through His Word, and we emulate His purpose when we also become proficient communicators.”

By the time students move into Middle and Upper School, they are prepared for the pressure of being in front of an audience. Many students participate in school performances, such as drama, chorus, and special concerts throughout the school year.

dramamary poppins
SBS students perform in “Mary Poppins,” 2022.

“StoneBridge has prepared me for more things than I can count, and one of those is public speaking,” says Emily Brady, a 9th grader at StoneBridge. “From Constitution Day in 5th grade to 8th grade speeches to drama productions, there have been so many opportunities along the way to help prepare me for the future, whatever God calls me to. There is definitely a struggle to get up the courage to speak in front of people, but I remember my middle school English teacher repeatedly telling my class that we ‘can do all things through Christ.’ Not some – but all.” (Watch Brady’s 8th Grade speech below.)

As students enter 8th grade, they begin preparing for their 8th grade speech, which they present in the spring. Each speech is 3-5 minutes long and focuses on a Biblical topic of the student’s choosing.

“Students, through their 8th grade Bible/Apologetics class and the 8th grade speech process, prepare a topic to defend from a Biblical perspective,” Amanda Ironmonger, Middle School English teacher and theatre director, notes. “The goal is for the students to learn how to research, reason, relate, record, and present their faith to an audience, and to learn to succinctly, effectively, and articulately proclaim the Good News to all the Earth.”

Once students reach high school, they are immersed in honing their public speaking skills. Ninth graders conduct an English literature research project, 10th graders present a portfolio oration of an historic character, and 11th graders deliver an oration project. All of this is in preparation for the ultimate task: the senior thesis.

The senior thesis is a 20-25-page scholarly paper that examines a controversial subject in which the student takes an informed position in line with a biblical worldview. The student must present and defend the paper in front of a panel of faculty, administrators, and board members. This 30-minute presentation and defense offers a unique opportunity to prepare the SBS graduate for the rigors of interacting at a scholarly level in college.

SBS Alumnus Danny González (Class of 2001), now a Licensed Nuclear Reactor Operator at Surry Nuclear Power Station, shared how valuable this experience was in preparing him for his future.

“The process of researching and writing my senior thesis at StoneBridge made the lesser challenges of academic and subsequent work-related training much easier to tackle,” González said.

Another SBS graduate, Katie Wingard (Class of 2017), echoed that sentiment.

“The presentation and defense of my thesis provided me with the confidence and capability to excel in public speaking situations as well as written assignments,” she noted. “I’d say that the greatest advantage StoneBridge gave me was critical thinking skills. Creating the mental pattern to reason and think through things was very beneficial, not only in college but in life.”

There are tangible benefits to honing public speaking skills, according to Schwantes. Aside from opening up better career and work opportunities, these skills also naturally foster an increased influence with peers.

The confidence students gain through StoneBridge’s speech emphasis has an impact that resonates far beyond their time at the school. These skills, combined with the character development and training in biblical reasoning truly have an eternal impact.

Watch SBS 2021 Graduate Abby Hinton’s speech below.