Facing Your Fears of Public Speaking

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By Briana Hanks ’20 and Grace Miller ’20

When most people are asked what they fear, most answer public speaking. However, students doing Speech and Debate, either through the class or the club, develop life skills that are useful for the future

Mr. Mark Onstott, head coach of Speech and Debate, says, “I think if you can train people to be comfortable in front of an audience then they have a life skill that the majority of people on the planet either don’t have or they’re very uncomfortable achieving.”

Sophomore Angela Serwaa-Marfo, who is on the debate team, goes to the after-school debate practices. To start, a typical debate practice consists of going in, picking out a topic, and preparing a speech. They have 30 minutes to prepare and seven minutes to articulate their speeches. Debaters can either use a notecard or not use a notecard. A very important part of the speech is backing up each point with evidence. Through Speech and Debate, students learn to explain their own ideas using evidence, which helps develop research skills. Once the speech is created, each debater presents their speech. For each practice, there are three rounds and a final round which includes six people.

“Speech and Debate gives you main skills that are helpful for class or life in general,” Angela said.

In class, research papers are usually assigned. This pushes students to research and create an argument. A main aspect of their argument should include evidence, which is found through good research.

Not only does it teach how to argue and negotiate, but it also teaches critical thinking and research skills. These critical thinking skills are important throughout any student’s school life. Teachers are always talking about incorporating critical thinking into their lessons, but by taking Speech and Debate, students are more effectively able to apply these skills in the classroom.

In classes, teachers always assign students speeches no matter what grade they are in. Angela says that Speech and Debate “comes to play” especially in class because it teaches you good presentation skills. She says it helps with, “speaking and looking people directly in the eyes.”

Angela emphasized how her love for Speech and Debate is a fun way to learn  new skills and learn to be a good speaker.

Debate teachers, like Mr. Onstott, help students develop useful skills for other academic pursuits and life more generally, which is what the Stanford National Forensic Institute stated.

Sophomore Emma Fantz says that by taking the Speech and Debate class, she has been able to argue and negotiate more.

According to The Guardian,“Speech and Debate teaches students how to master the skills of the confidence to speak in public, make an argument that makes sense, and the willingness to hear the other side’s argument and be able to respond to them.”

By gaining this confidence when speaking in public, students across the globe are prepared for their future because almost every adult has had to talk to an audience.

Almost everyone would agree that there is always another side that doesn’t agree with them which is why “disagreement is the most vital ingredient of any  society,” according to The New York Times.

To respectfully disagree with someone, everyone should try not to go down a controversial road and do not act like the other person’s side argument does not have a point. Angela says, “You should try to not fight with the opposing side and to listen to their points because you might learn something from them that you didn’t know before.”

At the end of the day, Angela agrees everyone should “be respectful because at the end of the day we’re all Americans and humans in the eyes of God.”

This season, Angela and other students have found success. The Speech and Debate team will finish this semester with over 100 awards. Don’t be afraid to join next semester!