This year, for the first time, I am a Speech and Debate coach.
Well, sort of.
You could barely fill a thimble with what I know about competitive speech and debate.
So, I guess it would be more accurate to say I am officially "Assistant Adult in Charge."
Friday was the first tournament I attended in this new capacity.
Over the last few weeks, I have been involved in practices.
I don't know the rules.
I am not familiar with the events.
I can't finesse the details.
But I am an English teacher.
I can listen to performances and give feedback from the judging point of view.
Judging I have occasionally done for years.
I can help students select and cut appropriate pieces.
Books, I know.
I can listen and keep time.
I can help with enunciation and pronunciation.
I can support the creation of a well-structured argument.
I can spot logical fallacies and provide potential counter-arguments or likely questions.
Regardless, I am doing at least as much learning as the students.
Going to a tournament as a coach for the first time was new.
Instead of spending the entire evening judging and hanging out in the judge's lounge,
Instead of seeing the students mostly on the bus,
Instead of being an outsider,
I was much more involved.
I still judged a round.
But I also got to hang out with the team.
I checked in to make sure all the novices found their correct rooms one round.
I visited the tab room and learned how to check scores (sort of--still not totally clear on how all that works!).
I spent time encouraging students to push through their nerves.
It was fun.
It was a chance to see students at their very best.
There is something profoundly pleasing about watching kids stretch themselves.
Watching them compete to be the best they can be is incredibly rewarding.
It can be hard when they fail to garner positive feedback or winning placement.
And it is totally exhilarating to see them succeed.
I have always avoided leading extra curricular activities, especially competitive extra curricular activities.
Partly this is because I am so engrossed by working with teachers.
And partly because I am perpetually, chronically, exceedingly over-committed.
This is a new experience for me.
It is fun and interesting and definitely a good thing.