#HereToBeHeard Through the Computer

How Speech & Debate is Approaching This Year’s Challenges

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PC: Aya

Speech & Debate members and coaches maintaining social distance during the first tournament of the season.

Aya Kasim, Editor-in-chief

With 50 members and counting, Speech & Debate is one of the most prominent and growing organizations at the high school. Just as sports, band, and FFA, it has had to greatly adjust to the current situation of split learning, social distancing, and mask regulations. However, these obstacles are no match to the determination and passion of Speech & Debate members. 

The Speech & Debate classroom is conducted very differently this year compared to last. As members are split between two mediums of learning, the experience varies. For online students, the week is self-guided and goal-oriented. Students set up and plan their own work, progress throughout the week,  request google meets if wanted, and present their results on Friday.  In-person students do just the same, but receive the face-to-face instruction online students lack. Coaches and captains are there for immediate feedback and answers. 

“One of the main challenges we’ve faced this year not being able to see the whole debate team at once,” Speech & Debate coach Tessa Gregory said. “Interacting with everyone is hard to do when only a portion of your kids are in-person.”

Tournaments have seen the biggest change. Traditionally, a full Saturday is dedicated to traveling to a different school, competing physically in front of a judge and fellow competitors, and spending the day with many people, most from other schools. This year, the fall Texas Forensics Association (TFA) tournament season is completely online. In somewhat of a google meet manner, competitors join a virtual room to present their speech and/or compete and leave once done. Results are posted throughout the day and competitors get their judge ballots/comments as quickly as they are finished.

“It doesn’t feel the same,” senior Dalyssia Renteria said. “It doesn’t have the same magic as walking into a cafeteria and seeing all the competitors.”

On Saturday, September 19, the first tournament of the season was held. Members had the option of coming to campus to compete with the help of coaches or to compete at home. As any new experience, mishaps were had. There were connection, lighting, and audio issues, late judges and no-shows; however, success was had despite the troubles. Senior Sara Beth Beasley placed 3rd and senior Dominick Peralta 5th in Extemporaneous Speaking. Junior Aya Kasim placed 1st in Original Oratory. 

“I was very nervous for the first tournament,” Speech & Debate President and senior Sara Beth Beasley said. “When the first round began we had quite a few technical issues, which was stressful. I also didn’t know what to expect, because this is completely new, so I felt out of my element.”

As the rest of the TFA season is set for online, the spring UIL season’s structure is yet to be determined. Speech & Debate has decided to, with great optimism, take it one practice, competition, and event at a time.