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Paving the Way to Heated Arguments About Dragons”

“My life would be much better if I were a dragon.” That is what someone explained in a short speech in practice after school one day. It may sound a little silly, but they definitely had to think outside of the box to logically explain that one. When I started the speech and debate club at my school this year, I was really putting myself out of my comfort zone. I have never been good at public speaking; in fact, I have suffered from a lot of social anxiety, so it was especially strange that I decided to spearhead this for my school. Anyone I’ve ever talked to about speech and debate and any videos I’ve watched have had nothing but positive things to say about the implementation of these programs in high school, so I decided to try it out myself.

Why Did I Start Speech and Debate?

Having been at Haas Hall Academy for three years, I have always found it odd that we didn’t have a speech and debate club at our school. My school has more than thirty clubs and excels in anything academic, so why didn’t we have speech and debate? Most schools with speech and debate teams form their teams from the students in year long classes with an experienced teacher to advise and teach the students how to compete; speech and debate is not a class option at my school, so I had to take initiative and form a team myself. Another reason I wanted to start this team is because of my sister. My sister just graduated last year; she did three years of speech and debate in high school and ended up teaching the class her senior year. She was always so excited when she came home to talk about her competitions and how much she loved teaching her students. The primary reason I started this club is because I know how crucial the art of public speaking is. Public speaking and social interaction in general is a declining skill in today’s society, especially in kids and adolescents. I personally have experienced this decline and saw how essential it is to fix. The whole world is based upon interactions with other people; if you don’t have the ability to talk to someone, it can be very hard to get what you need. Speech and debate will take these skills to a whole other level. If you have any desire to go into the fields of business, politics, or activism, the abilities you gain from speech and debate are necessary to help you perform well in your career. These experiences can help you change society, convince people of your opinions, create social connections, and show your aptitude in a career.

What is Speech and Debate?

In high school, speech and debate teams learn the rules of events, practice, practice some more, and compete against other schools and individuals. There are so many different types of speech and debate events as well as various other forensic events; this being the case, it can be difficult to understand and follow all of the rules. So far, I have been focusing on getting my team to be comfortable with each other, think on their feet, and have fun. Considering this isn’t a class, this needs to be notably fun, and as far as I can tell, I think people are liking it. I first started out by having them practice and understand Impromptu speech. In this event, students are given a topic and have 7 minutes to prepare and give a short speech. The topics for Impromptu can vary from quotes to political questions to pop culture references. I really like teaching this event because it is so simple, but builds skills fundamental to any other event. Impromptu speech instills confidence and the imperative ability to improvise quickly and efficiently. Consider you were given the prompt, “Try blue, it’s the new red!” – Wall-E. There are a lot of different ways to interpret this; the most crucial part of giving a speech is confidence; in competitions, the judges are not judging you based on your accuracy; they are judging you on how well you gave the speech and how well you convinced them of your point. You may not even have seen Wall-E, but if you form a well composed speech with a clear structure, you could easily succeed in your competition. Debates are often more formal than speeches and can show how well you can communicate and understand different sides of a dispute. Debates can also improve listening skills and research abilities. In my opinion, the most valuable part of partaking in speech and debate is the overall confidence it can give you to stand up for what you believe in and let others know what you think of something.

Am I Glad I Started This Team?

I think this was an excellent decision for me. Not only is it great to put “founder of a club” on your resume, but I have honestly become much more confident with public speaking and just speaking in general over the last couple of months. Yes, it is very nerve wracking to single handedly be running this club and teaching students how to do well in competitions, but it has been extremely rewarding. Truthfully, I barely know more than them, but the reason I feel successful in teaching them is because I am using the same skills I am teaching them. I am being confident and thinking on my feet to show them how they can do the exact same. On our third practice, we were working on impromptu speeches and they unanimously decided that I should give a speech as well. They gave me a random topic, I took 30 seconds to prepare, and then I gave a speech that I had no idea was in me about why Fight Club was Chuck Palahniuk’s best book. I had never even tried this before, but I feigned my confidence, made it seem as if I knew what I was doing, and I ultimately set a very good example for them. I am enjoying teaching them a surprising amount; it is incredibly uplifting to see the potential, effort, interest, and how much fun they are having. Attendance has been very sporadic since I started this club; some weeks there are 20 people, and other weeks there are 6. Many more people are interested than I initially thought there would be. The critical issue with speech and debate as a club in my school is that we get very limited time to practice: only one hour a week, whereas other schools have at minimum 3 hours a week. I was hoping to get these students prepared for competitions and potentially even awards, but we have a major disadvantage in regards to that. Right now, I am far more focused on everyone having fun and gaining confidence, because that is more important in the long run. Whether you are debating about how to achieve world peace or explaining why you wish you were a dragon, speech and debate will further your communication skills and improve your professionalism.

  • Delaney Fehr, 10th grade, Haas Hall Academy, Rogers

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