Junior high changes eighth grade speeches


This year the BSM stage will stand empty as eighth graders will deliver speeches inside their classrooms.

Libby Simpson, Multimedia Editor

In the past, almost every 8th grader has had to write and perform a speech in the theater in front of the entire junior high. However, this school year, 8th graders will not have to give their speeches in the theater anymore, but rather in their classrooms.

English teacher Mr. Greg Hoemke, along with the other junior high teachers, decided during last year’s professional development time that a change needed to be made to make the speeches more effective. They even talked about getting rid of them as a whole. “We decided as a group of junior high teachers, and there was really huge consensus to make a change. I think the English teachers wanted to see a better product,” Hoemke said.

Before the change, every 8th grader had to prepare a three-minute-long speech on any topic and present it to the whole junior high complete with a slideshow. Among 8th grade alums, this speech is seen as a rite of passage into the high school. “I think it’s a pretty foreboding task for them to have to stand up there and do that. [Students were] incredibly nervous, and it was evident in their speaking… You could look at that as a rite of passage or something that is extremely painful for some students. We just didn’t see the value in continuing it when we could do it in a more comfortable environment,” Hoemke said.

We just didn’t see the value in continuing it when we could do it in a more comfortable environment.”

— Greg Hoemke

Junior high teachers hope that by changing the way things are done, the quality of the speeches will improve.  “The speeches that we have seen in the past few years were not done very well at all; we don’t think the effort that was put into the speeches really merited giving all that time to speeches…8th graders were trying to do a speech that was not memorable, that was their goal. And if that’s the goal of a lot of students, then it’s time to change,” Hoemke said.

Some previous junior high students who are now in high school commented on the change like senior Louis Hyde. “I disagree with [the change]. I think there is a lot of value in speaking in front of a large audience, and I don’t think they should change it,” said Hyde.

All in all, the junior high speeches will continue, just not in the same way. Hoemke hopes this change will benefit many students. “It’s still difficult to change things that have been a tradition for a long time and things that people feel connected to,” Hoemke said.