Just over a year ago I had my first presentation at a school and without a doubt that presentation had the most butterflies in my stomach of all of them that I have done. Well, a year has passed and once again I have the chance to speak in front of students.
Am I nervous? Normally I have no sense of nerves before a presentation. I know, sounds odd, right? I mean zero nerves. I never thought I would get to such a point in my life that public speaking is easier than normal speaking (what is the opposite of public speaking?) but I have. However, and this is a very BIG however, I may be comfortable talking to parents, teachers, doctors, police officers, and any other profession but talking to kids? Scares me to no end.
I've been telling myself that I want a challenge and I've got my wish today. All last night and this morning I've been wondering why I have been nervous and I'm not totally sure that it has to do with the fact that it's that they're kids. No, I think part of the nerves is the fact that I want this to be perfect because I realize the stakes are so high so it's almost like pre-game jitters before a championship match.
So are the stakes high? You bet they are! The need for understanding is great everywhere but none so paramount than that of our classrooms. Why? Where else is a person with Asperger Syndrome going to be with the same people for weeks, months, and perhaps years on end eight hours at a time? If there is no awareness and understanding then how can we expect those without Asperger's to have any compassion or sympathy? Without the understanding our actions can be taken as aloof, uncaring, or sometimes rude when that, more often than not, is not the case.
I know a lot is riding on this and for those that hear me whether I use one story or another it probably won't matter, but I want this to be perfect. I've rehearsed what I've wanted to say over and over (and I actually had a dream about it last night) and I still am not happy. I sort of want to do what I did last year and speak for a little and then let the class dictate the course by opening it up to questions, but what if they don't ask questions?
Above all else I want to make a connection today. I hope that my words lets them inside the mind of a person with Asperger Syndrome. It's days like today that, while I know I have one of the most amazing jobs in the world, I realize just how important my job is and how much rides on each presentation. Going into this, today, I'm not really allowed an off day because if I can make that connection, and a student begins to understand his or her classmate, you know, maybe a case of bullying will disappear or maybe, just maybe, a friendship can begin. And for a person with Asperger Syndrome, chances are the school setting is already difficult and the last thing that the person needs is a full classroom of people that thinks that they're weird, odd, or any other word that is derogatory. So yes, in just a few hours I take what, in my opinion, is my most important stage. I hope I'm on my game. I hope I can make that connection and let the most important word of all, understanding, into the mix.
After this presentation my life won't change as I'll probably eat lunch, contemplate writing my 5th book, then go to bowling tonight. However, I hope somehow someway I change another person's life today with my stories and words.