Reflections

Every year is a learning experience. Nothing went perfectly, new attitudes and personalities interacted (and clashed) in new and exciting ways, and we all learned... something. 

You might have learned something about forensics itself. Something nuanced, like subtle internal structure or the power of varying transition words. 

You might have learned something from a piece you saw, maybe on a subject you thought you knew but had a layer you hadn't considered before. Maybe a piece you've seen a thousand times over the years suddenly had a moment in which you had to take a beat to think about it, gaining insight you hadn't had before. 

You might have learned something about yourself. About the way you deal with conflict, or personalities that were new to you, or managing a crisis. You might have learned that you were better than you thought you were at something, or learned that there are still things you can pick up regarding something or another. 

This is a time to reflect, to think about those things we learned this year. I encourage everyone, students, parents, and coaches, to take a few minutes, maybe 3, and just ask yourself what you learned this year. Which moment taught you, which lesson you might have learned, or even had reinforced. Taking those moments means that we become better forensicators, but it also means we've decided to never stop on this quest to learn more and be better. 

The end of the school year

As if the end of the forensics season wasn't hard enough, the end of the school year comes with a huge array of memories, nostalgia, and excitement. Even for those of us teaching or taking summer school, or with jobs that don't take summers off, the change in the season and the children and young adults out and about during the day change our perspective on things. 

Perspective is a concept that comes up a lot this time of year. The perspective of parents, students, and coaches is supremely different. Each milestone and reaction shifts, depending on the person experiencing it. There's usually a mix of pride, trepidation, and excitement, but the ratio shifts a bunch depending on the perspective. 

As we go through all these different, sometimes trying times, let's keep in mind that there are other perspectives of each situation, and that taking a beat to understand them can make each one richer, fuller, and rife with education. 

Looking Back

Those of you that attended NCFL nationals last weekend know most of the numbers. Over 5,000 people in Louisville, KY spoke, advocated, and tried their best. I'm sure all teams had at least one moment of frustration, a moment of pride, a moment in which we wished the trip wouldn't end, and one moment in which we couldn't wait to be finished. 

For many teams the competition year is now over. We're packing up the interp books, excited to have a short break from filing news, and starting to think of topics for next year. 

This is that bitter sweet time of the year in which we aren't sure if we're supposed to be happy or sad. The team is still seeing each other socially in some capacities, but those big group moments aren't going to be scheduled again until the fall. Seniors are done, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are in varying states of excited and apathetic, and the new blood that will reinvigorate the team isn't even considering what forensics is yet (unless they happen to be reading this blog. I which case, good for you. Your future team is lucky to have you). 

My team has no more practices scheduled, but we do have one more moment together - we call it our end of the year hootenanny. It's a potluck in which we give away team awards and come together to celebrate all the moments over the past year in which we learned and grew, and came together as a team. 

Whether or not you have one last practice or are done, take the summer to recharge and fully embrace the kind of forensics participant you wish to be once the summer months are over. There is a lot to consider, and remembering that it's your choice how the next year goes for you is a powerful position to be in. 

As we leave for nationals

This is Nationals weekend. This is the weekend in which all those practices, fundraisers, awards, and research sessions work up to. It's bitter sweet. 

The sweet part comes in the form of excitement. Our students are excited, we're excited, the parents are anxious-excited, and no matter how many times you've been to nationals, whether this is your first rodeo or you've been to dozens, there is still an energy and enjoyment that just really isn't in any other place. No matter how much we'e worked, and how ready we think we are, there's always one more run-through, one more tweak, one more tongue teaser that could be the difference between breaking or not. That adds an excitement and wonder that keeps everyone on their toes. 

And that's the bitter part too. I always tell my students 'breaking at nats is 65% hard word and 35% luck.' Because no matter how ready we are, how many drafts the speech has had, and how many first place trophies it has taken over the course of the year, there's always a chance that it's not going to get the right judges, or the student will have a single stumble, or the other people in the room are just better. I have found that keeping perspective in this is key. 

Every student at this national tournament has already won. They've worked hard, played hard, and gotten here. They've raised the funds, and packed their bags, and made it to the big show. That's the award that each of us get every year, student, coach, and parent alike. With this perspective, there is no bitter sweet, it's all pretty sweet. (though the trophy can still be nice sometimes). 

Enjoy the weekend. No matter what happens, I know I will. 

Just a Week

We are a week away from leaving for Louisville, so I imagine you are as busy as we are with tournament and nationals travel prep. 

As such, we'll keep this short. 

Considering this your reminder to enjoy this prep week, and be grateful that you get to experience it, right now, with this group of teammates, coaches, and students.  

Remember to be Grateful. 

Why We're Here

As forensics educators, we started to notice something. We saw that administrators (who very often need a little cajoling to loosen the budget strings) seemed to be getting less and less susceptible to the pleas of forensics programs around the country. 

Programs thrive and deplete all the time - we know this. Coaches retire, budgets get cut, student interest wanes, but also, sometimes, students fight for a new program, a new team is formed, and new budget allocations are made. 

We wanted to help that rotating door be a little smoother. Through all of the resources we're freely providing on our site, we're hoping that student-run programs might have a little less in the form of hoops to jump through. Maybe coaches (who are over worked, no administrator that has never done forensics truly understands the time commitment this activity is) might have an easier time of it, if they aren't looking as ardently for resources, they're right here. Maybe parents, who often aren't sure what forensics is, might be inspired to help out. The more volunteers this activity has, the more it will thrive. 

So, that's why Forensics University exists. We wanted a place to help these issues smooth out. We are trying to cover as many bases as possible, and be a resource for as many people and programs as possible. We're always happy to bring on contributors, and hope that, through our efforts, a few programs might have a little easier time of it. 

We're all in this forensics thing together. This site isn't easy, or quick. It's meant to be a life line, it has to be tough, and thorough. We wouldn't be donating our own time and money into this site if we weren't hopeful that it helps you or someone like you. 

Thank you for checking us out. We mean it. Really. If you need a hand, ask. That's why we're here. 

As the School Year winds down

As the school year winds down, we know that student (and coach) minds begin to wander. We start thinking about our summer vacations, having the free time to read whatever we want (even though we all know that only lasts the first week before we're picking up debate philosophy, or prose cuttings), and generally being 'off' from speech and debate. 

This activity is different than others, in that our season is just so very long. We begin in September or October, and our nationals are not until the end of May or June (depending on which one you attend). Because of the length, while we love it, there are moments in which we start to feel a little...burnt out. That first Saturday off after a long haul, that practice that got canceled because of spring break, these are moments we feel a little guilty for enjoying. We start to look toward the summer. And, we need that recharge. Our students need that recharge. And, our teams need that recharge. 

Keeping focused in these last few weeks is difficult, but necessary. We're still prepping students for nationals, while also managing and encouraging those that might not have made it this year. Our focus is split between practices, travel prep for the tournament, finals, and the draw of the warm weather outside. 

Just remember, that if you didn't have moments of your mind wandering beyond the forensics-sphere right now, you'd be way more likely to burn yourself out. Think about finals. Think about Prom, and, in some other moments, think about forensics. 

The best part about this activity is that it brings together so many different viewpoints and ideas. Enjoying that we got to learn about those different concepts is what makes us great competitors and coaches. Taking the time to think about what we learned from a non-forensics point of view is what makes us great learners.  

6 weeks from Nationals

I know it seems like we all just qualified yesterday, but here we are, just over 6 weeks from nationals. Emotions are running high, low, and in between, depending on the type of students and coaching staff that are preparing for this year's competition. 

With 6 weeks out, it's time to think about perspective. Ask yourself a few questions that might help you on your quest to getting better at this forensics thing: 

  1. What did you learn this year? Whether you are a competitor, coach, or parent, there is probably something that you learned. Did you notice book work that was cleaner, or hear about a philosopher that was new to you, or hear an argument or message that really made you think? 
  2. Ask yourself how you can incorporate the new things you learned into your practices, coaching, and presenting. Did a concept make you question the box you had put yourself in? Did an argument reach you in a way you hadn't thought of before? And, if so - how is can you emulate that? How can you make your message resonate with your audience members? 
  3. Ask yourself how you're feeling. Are you nervous, excited, ambivalent? Are you remembering that this is supposed to be a fun learning experience? Are you sharing your thoughts and feelings with your teammates, so that you may all grow together? 

Taking a short time to reevaluate why we're here, and how we're going to continue to improve, and learn, and grow might seem to take up time that we simply don't have right now. But, taking stock, and reexamining, this is what makes us better. This is how we improve, and this is how we win.