Expanding Your Boundaries

Expanding Your Boundaries
Posted on 05/16/2018
Sara Given

Recently I heard a story about a bear in a zoo.  The bear in the zoo was kept in a cage only large enough to allow him to make eight paces forward and eight paces backward.  The bear would wake up and several times throughout the day travel this small conditioned path.  Anyone visiting the bear would immediately realize the unhappiness of the bear in this unnatural habitat. After visiting the bear, one person went to the zookeeper and expressed that if the bear were kept in a more natural habitat it would be healthier and happier.


The zookeeper agreed and went to the proper authorities. In time, the new natural habitat was created for the bear.  It stretched over a larger area with trees, grass, and a pond. The area became surrounded by visitors waiting to see the bear released into its new home. But, when the bear was released it looked around and slowly took eight paces forward and eight paces backward and laid down.


The bear in the story was not able to expand beyond its previously set boundaries.


We are conditioned in similar ways.  We need to take the ninth step, then the tenth.  That will be the start.  We should not keep ourselves caged in small boundaries.


Participating in Speech and/or Theatre programs provides students with the confidence, courage and ability to take the next steps.


I start my DC Public Speaking class every year with the following question: “Can you name a career that does not involve communication?”  Usually they respond with “a Mime,” or something more creative like “the person that puts makeup on people in a funeral home.”  My response… “Isn’t the mime telling a story with his or her movements?” “Doesn’t our appearance communicate who we are (or were)?” The truth is that every occupation, every interaction and even our inner thoughts are in fact communication.


I then tell my students that they are “the smartest students in the school.”  I usually get odd stares before I explain that by taking a communication course, they are committing to improving the one skill that everyone uses all of the time. Therefore, they are the smartest kids and are ready to step outside of their boundaries.


I have the amazing opportunity each year to see this movement in action.  Most students start the year timid, unsure, unaware, or “confined.” I get to see the growth as they slowly develop confidence, build connections and become more aware of their voice. Some will even continue to study the art of communication and performance, while others apply what they’ve learned in a new direction.


The Mexico High School Speech, Debate and Theatre program has a long history of successful students. Students that ventured out, utilizing their skills to reach their potential. This can be seen in the wall of plaques on your way to the office and the walls of accomplishments in the sports complex.  When you read the MSHSAA State Speech, Debate, and Theatre competition program, you can see that Mexico had the very first State Champion Debate team in 1915, multiple State finalists throughout the years, 6 State Champions since 1994 and 8 National Qualifiers since 1997. But you can also see success in the number of students who have graduated and excelled in their profession giving back to the community that taught them how to have a voice of their own.


Communication is essential in our everyday lives.  It is important to know how to represent ourselves. It is important to know how to interact with others. And, it is important to know you have a voice of your own. These skills can be taught and are being taught in classes our students take. But, these are skills that also are learned through our day to day socialization; our personal and our public experiences. Children can learn the “how to’s” in a text, or from taking notes in a lecture. But, the real lessons come from the life around us. We all have a responsibility to our students to model and provide positive communication experiences for our children.


Just as the bear in the story, we have to provide an environment that allows ourselves and our student’s space to explore and to experience.  We have to be willing to debate topics we don’t agree on.  We have to be able to share ideas without consequence.  We have to be accepting of each other’s differences. And, we have to allow everyone to have their own voice.