We’ve all had that one influential teacher that strives to, with the use of knowledge, shape us into better human beings. That passionate, hard-headed, yet loving individual whom, through years of very little appreciation, still managed to stick by the strong morals of true education. If you’ve experienced a bond with the person that I’m attempting to describe, as many of us have, writing a speech in his/her honor becomes a real struggle. I say struggle, because no matter what words you use or how you use them, in your eyes they will never truly live up to the greatness of the person they’re mentioning. So, what to do? Well, having been in your shoes, let me see if I can help. Writing a speech for a retiring teacher may not have to be as daunting as we first make it out to be in our heads. With the right guidelines and a clear direction as to where the speech will take its audience, whether it be giggles or tears or both, composing an ode for your personal Odysseus doesn’t have to be too difficult.
As with all writing projects, step one is to brainstorm and release all thoughts, no matter how silly they may be, into paper. By creating different groups or topics (I call them “buckets”) in which these thoughts are fitted, the brainstorming process becomes smoother. For example:
Anecdotes: that time when Mr. Williams released us early for lunch and the principal found out, that day when we had to dissect frogs in Mr. Williams’s class and a girl fainted, etc.
These may sound completely hilarious and unsuitable for a retirement speech, BUT they might be useful later on in the writing process when adding humor into the end product. (You want people to laugh a little, trust me on that.) As opposed to just scribbling down all sorts of thoughts into one giant mess, organizing them into different sections makes it easier to track certain ideas down that you may want to use.
Once all reflections, memories, and feelings are out there in the open and ready to be weaved into an eloquent retirement speech, there are certain considerations that must be examined before actually scripting all the material together. First is the audience; like all drama connoisseurs preach: you perform for your audience. What this means when writing a speech is that in order for the product to be successful and liked, the people to whom you’re speaking need to be considered.
For example, in this specific scenario the public would be mostly composed of fellow teachers, the retiring teacher’s family, and some students. This means that the speech should be respectful, filled with admiration, and somewhat humorous. (Solemn speeches are reserved for politicians.) Personal details would obviously have to be avoided, and in turn replaced by heartwarming memories with the celebrated one that can be shared by fellow peers and teachers alike. The aim in this instance should be to highlight the rewarding nature of this person’s duty, and how it changed the life of those around him/her, while still keeping a light atmosphere.
Another thing to consider before writing is the length of the speech. Most speeches vary between a 3 to 5 minute duration, but some can go longer and making sure exactly how long is expected is important. The perfect speech should feel complete in that a well-formed conversation with the audience was made and thoughts were finished, but should not feel like a never-ending run-on sentence in which irrelevant information is abundant.
The last thing to determine before getting on to the action of things is: overall what are you trying to say? What theme should be the one to tie everything together? Think specifics. Maybe the entire point of the speech is to compare the teacher to a renowned philosopher or hero, and explore his/her resilience. Maybe the point of the speech is just to stress and point out the love that this person felt for his/her career in education. Maybe the point is simply to celebrate a life’s worth of accomplishments. Either way, establishing the purpose of the speech is extremely important, and it guarantees cohesion. No one wants to hear something that’s all over the place and reaches no conclusion.
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