Mirror Magazine
10th October 1999

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Plus|
Business| Sports Sports Plus|  

The Sunday Times on the Web


Have you got a voice

By Wathsala Mendis

You've got butterflies in your stomach; your knees knock; your voice trembles; your palms and feet are sweaty...It takes all your strength to go up there on the stage and deliver your speech. Does this describe you in school on "English Day"? Most of us would rather jump out of a parachute than speak in public. Or do you belong to that precious few to whom going in front of an audience is just a piece of cake?

Effective communication skills and good verbal communication are essential in today's competitive world. The ability to put your thoughts into good clear speech is an asset and a reflection on your personality. For those heading for higher education as well as those looking for jobs especially in the private sector, the self-confidence and the clarity of expression gained through speech and drama lessons would prove invaluable.

If you're a self-assured, poised personality with a love for sharing your knowledge, then maybe it's time you considered teaching speech and drama as your career. But as people who've been in this field for years emphasize it's a "highly specialized" subject. A lot of people go into it very lightly, jumping on the bandwagon of "elocution teachers". And most of them think taking elocution lessons is speaking with an accent. No, no, and no.

The objective of teaching speech and drama is to help children gain speech clarity with appropriate intonation, pitch, pace, and pronunciation through speech exercises and dramatization so that they acquire effective communication skills necessary to develop confidence and self-esteem to forge ahead in their studies, career, and in life.

It's definitely not something where you can take or offer crash courses. It's not like joining a driving school to get a driver's licence. Speech and drama is a hard discipline that should be mastered and taught properly with a lot of commitment and dedication. You should be willing to go the whole hog, have a deeper understanding of your role as a teacher to guide young children in their development and learning.

Taking into account the demands of parents on children's educational progress and achievements, you should strive to meet those demands while retaining the joy of learning that children must experience to make it interesting and relevant. You have to have a marvellous understanding of child psychology, treat each child as an individual, take each one at his or her own pace.

Sometimes you become more of a parent than a teacher. There would be times when little ones and teenagers come to you with their problems- family, relationships, adolescence, etc. Good listening and interpersonal skills would always come in handy. It's not just teaching children how to orally express themselves effectively in English but being responsible for his or her overall character development. It definitely is NOT a way of making an easy buck.

For those young aspirants out there who want to qualify as speech and drama teachers, the Wendy Whatmore Academy of Speech & Drama (5 13th Lane, Colombo 3/ Tel: 573913) which incidentally celebrates its diamond jubilee next year conducts classes for the Trinity College of London exams in speech and drama while the Institute of Western Music and Speech (12 Kotalawela Gardens, Colombo 4/ Tel: 582498, 587328) conducts their own exams from Preliminary to Grade VIII as well as certificate and diploma exams for teachers. You can contact the Institute for a list of their speech and drama teachers.

To see the potential in the child, to transfer knowledge to the child, to prepare the child for the challenges in life ahead... That is what makes a teacher great.

A Dispatch from the U of K

It may not be Pidurutalagala, but when the lecture begins at 9 and your watch says it's ten minutes past, by the time you climb the " Campus Kanda" and reach the " thel bamma" (the round-about at the top), you are so out of breath you almost know how Sir Edmund Hillary would have felt when he reached the top of Mt. Everest. With the straps of the worn-out cloth bag, filled with over-due-library-books, bottle of water, lunch, umbrella, digging into my shoulders, I pause in front of the " thel bamma" and try to draw the lost oxygen back into my lungs. A bright yellow poster catches my attention.

"Culavansa is a myth created by Geiger" - a seminar by Prof. Ilangasinghe at 2.30 in Room No. 114. All are welcome". The black letters stare at me. A sudden urge to widen my knowledge on Sri Lankan history makes me decide I should attend the lecture even though it would mean a long wait till 2.30.

Not a difficult task, this, for the day proves to be lovely, the cup of tea at the "Gym" not too sugary, the over-due fines at the library not too high, and above all the comments on my tutorials not too depressive. By 2.30 I find myself standing in front of room 114, among a batch of historians, mostly monks in yellow robes, "Alone, alone, all alone" as Coleridge's Ancient Mariner had cried.

Historians !

"Historians should be slaughtered first" - the subject of a debate given to Chandran of R.K. Narayan's "Bachelor of Arts" drifts across my mind. I smile to myself as I take in the students of history standing around me and recall Chandran's argument - historians should be killed first so that they would not be there to distort facts when scientists, poets and politicians are killed in their turn.

Wondering whether they would kill writers and journalists too along with the historians or save them till the last, I enter the lecture room and realize that hardly a dozen students have turned up. The sudden thought that Professor Ilangasinghe might pose questions to the audience makes me sit at the very back of the room. For to my great shame, I realize if the Professor were to point his finger at me and ask, " What is the Culavansa ?" I would not know what to say.

Prof. Ilangasinghe arrives sharp at 2.30 and the lecture begins. But as all mikes do at such lectures, this one too refuses to work. At times the professor's voice booms out in an ear splitting volley of sounds, at times it becomes completely inaudible. In between, inimitable noises are heard that makes one look up at the ceiling to see if a UFO is going to land on the middle of the stage.

He speaks for half an hour. Stops. And asks his audience to take part in the lecture. The staff of the Department of History state their views on the importance of educating the general public about this discovery. But after a while the discussion begins to flag. An ominous silence invades the hall. When a student monk asks, "What made Geiger decide there is a book called the Culavansa", a point the professor had explained thoroughly at the very beginning of his lecture, I lose heart and unobtrusively walk out.

I trace my way to the library. But it's past four, and the lending section is heavily padlocked. My wish to get a glimpse of the "non-existent-Culavansa" goes unfulfilled.

The thel bamma is deserted. Only the echoes of the voices heard till the mid-afternoon inviting people for cups of tea, inquiring about lectures, begging for notes, linger.

Another day at the university draws to an end. From the bus halt on the Colombo-Kandy road, the "Campus Kanda" does not seem so steep. Only those who have climbed it know the agony. And the ecstasy of reaching the summit.

Aditha Dissanayake.

Index Page

Front Page






Sports Plus


More Mirror Magazine

Return to Mirror Magazine Contents


Mirror Magazine Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| PlusBusinessSports| Sports Plus|

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd. Hosted By LAcNet

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.