This is a special section for our wonderful teachers and managers who are in charge of debate clubs and societies in institutes of education. Debating as an activity within the school will not be possible without their presence. Here are a few things that teachers can do to attain debating excellence with their schools.
Create A Large Debate Club
Many schools are reluctant to form a large debate club, especially since the number of people who will be selected for the main team will be rather small. This will leave a large number of people who may not have meaningful activities to do if they were not selected for the competition teams. As a result, schools often decide to pick the main team early in the year and use these few speakers for the rest of the year. However, this policy has a few pitfalls:
a. The main team will be thin. Any drop in form or a long absence due to health problems, etc and the team’s ability to perform will be compromised;
b. There is no pressure created on the team members to improve and they begin to feel entitled to their position as the main team members;
c. This may also create resentment from the remaining club members who feel that they did not have a fair shot at getting selected for the main team; and
d. This meant that late bloomers/ late entries in the school will be ignored, even though they could have been key players on the team.
The better approach will be to form a large debate club first and spend time training all the club members on the fundamentals of debate. The selection of the main teams should come after sufficient time has been given to train and evaluate all the club members. This offers the following advantages:
a. The final team representing the school will be chosen from a larger and stronger pool, including late bloomers, allowing for the best and fairest selection;
b. The rest of the club is ready to step in and contribute by becoming sparring partners and brainstorming for ideas, etc.;
c. The other club members are now trained well enough to help train their juniors, easing the pressures on the coaches and teachers;
d. It will also facilitate outreach programmes to assist other schools without debate programmes, since more people have these debating skills; and
e. Most importantly, more people will have been given a very valuable skill in the form of debate.
Debate is a worthy activity in itself and that as many students as possible should be equipped with the skills and opportunities to do so. Debate should not be simply about getting trophies and medals, especially within the context of receiving an education. While the students should maximise their potentials within a competitive atmosphere, the educational value of debate should not be denied to students who deserve it.
Plan Club Activities
The advantages of having a club is that with the pressure of having to prepare for competitions, the club members’ debate activities can be orientated towards more educational ends. Thus, teachers could consider the following activities, in addition to many others, for the club members:
a. Viewing of films and documentaries on issues frequently encountered in debates,
b. Visits to educational institutions and sites, such as museums and expositions, and
c. Lectures by subject matter experts, such as by lawyers on international law.
At the same time, club members should also be given the chance to take part in competitive matches whenever possible. This will keep their debating skills sharp and even allow some of them to be promoted to the main teams. These activities will include friendly matches against other institutions’ clubs, participation in speech and oratory competitions and even participations in tournaments where possible.
Identify Potential Debaters
One way in which teachers can assist the trainers and coaches greatly is to locate debating talent within their schools. In many cases, the coaches will have to work with the existing members of the debating club and will not have access to the rest of the school population. The teachers can thus help identify individuals with strong speaking and argumentative talent and recommend them to the coaches. This can be facilitated by activities such as:
a. Intra-class debates during lessons,
b. Inter-class or inter-house debate competitions,
c. School-wide speech competitions, and
d. Requiring all students to address the entire school from time to time.
Sit in on trainings
Teachers can also learn a lot by sitting in on debate training sessions and absorbing what the coach has imparted. This allows the teachers to play a role in training and coaching the club members in the future as well. However, it should be noted that the teacher should not be undercutting the authority of the coach in anyway.
Hiring of speech coaches
Where possible and in consultation with the debate coaches, teachers may wish to hire coaches specifically to work on the Debaters’ speech and elocution. Although the speech coaches may not be familiar with debate activities, they will be excellent in improving the speaking abilities of the Debaters and freeing up the debate coach from having to spend too much time on style issues.