My Debating Experience

by Arara Kar | September 18, 2012 9:05 pm

Many teenagers nowadays want to flush that option out of mind. I know I wanted to. However, when my father persuaded me that debating is a great way to build up my future, I gave it a go.

I signed up for Interschool Debating with one of my friends. When our team began to prepare for the first debating topic, we felt tense.

Our debating session was held in Radford College. Locating the debating room of Radford College at night and getting there on time was another unsupportive feeling to me. Once I reached there I saw my team who seemed tense too. Strangely enough, this encouraged me. I felt that if everyone on my team was afraid, we’d get no where therefore. But if I showed more confidence, I’d be a role model for my team and then we’d get somewhere.

As we took our seats, the adjudicator began the regulations, getting names, explaining the rules and such. During this time, I observed our opponent school. They seemed much more organized than us; it was as if they had done this before. Secondly, they were very attentive, they wore clean and tidy school suits; it gave them a high standard look. All shards of winning hope had left me. Soon, our debate began.

The first speaker was a girl from the opposition school. Next went our speaker who wore our school uniform and sounded very shaky. One by one, their team’s speakers and our team speakers went up until it was my turn. By this time, I felt very shaky and full of energy. I felt as if I had the potential to run around the Radford campus multiple times. The adjudicator called out my name. There was no turning back now. I took my spot at the front of the room, behind the stand. I gently rested my sheets. I took a deep breath and began.

It was rather amazing, I simply spoke and the flow came by itself. I felt as if I could talk all night. It was a strange feeling; a mixture of fear and confidence. I didn’t want this feeling to leave. But it did for two main reasons. The first one was looking up to my father, who was studying me carefully. I could tell he was somewhat proud yet displeased at the same time. I knew that on the way back home he was going to give me a ‘one hour lecture’. The second reason was that the opposition team had brought up a ‘Point of Information’. My entire body wanted to deny but the word that escaped my mouth was regrettable. The boy from the opposition asked a question. I knew I had the answer dug somewhere in my sheets. I felt embarrassed as I searched through the pile of paper. As I got the answer, I was relieved and responded calmly. Over the next few minutes I was fired with two or three more ‘Point of Information’. Some I ignored, others I accepted ungratefully. Finally, my time was up. It felt as if years had passed. I slowly walked towards my seat and calmed down. I felt proud, relieved, successful and encouraged. I didn’t care if we won or lost now, I was simply glad to get that load of my chest.

The next few debates I had after those were much easier. I was more calm, relaxed, focused, determined and confident when it came to my turn. At the beginning, I felt doubtful and wanted to flush the idea of debating out of my mind but now, I find debating a somewhat of a hobby; not necessarily a hobby but still. That is why when I was selected to participate in the Interschool Parliamentary Debate, I didn’t resist.

On the day where our teacher informed us on how parliamentary debating is completely different from interschool debating, I felt as if I was new to debating once again. However, the change was to my favour and liking. It had a much simpler structure than the debates I had done before. The debate was split down into two sections. The first section is where our team answers questions from the opposition team. However, the only negative side of this is that we only have two minutes to answer. The opposition team send us their questions. Then each member of our team is specified to one question and is to bring up an answer within a week. The second section is where we are to bring up questions for another team.

The second section seemed like an easy task so I started on that first. Within a few days, I had come up with 10 or so questions for the opposition team. I handed in my questions and our teacher was appreciated by my work. One section is done, one more to go.

The questions from the opposition school hadn’t arrived until a few weeks before the debate. I choose that question, which involved statistics, since it seemed fairly easier than the others. However, I could not get much work done on this question due to my writer’s camp. This tensioned me. I only had one and a half weeks after the camp to bring up a speech for my question. Therefore, after the end of camp, my main focus was to get my speech ready for that question. By the end of the time, I had a decent speech ready with much needed statistics. The only flaw was that it went over the two minutes mark. I practiced many times and edited my speech multiple times. But the lowest time I could get was just over two minutes. There was nothing else to do, so I let it be.

The Parliamentary Interschool Debate was held in the ACT Legislative Assembly Hall. I was nervous but much more optimistic than my first ever debate. Once our team arrived at the Legislative Building, we were guided to the main Assembly Hall. When we made it to our designated seats, Speaker Shane Rattenbury, MLA arrived to begin the debates. We all stood up as he took his place upon the Speaker’s Chair. He signalled us to sit and began the debate without further delay.

Our school sat quietly, observing all the other schools on how they spoke and how they introduced themselves (in terms of body language and gestures). We did this so that we’d gain a better knowledge on how we should present our speeches when our time arrived. Soon enough, our time had arrived. Our first speaker introduced which side we were fighting for before the questions began. During practice, he was unorganized, that’s why it surprised me when I heard how managed his speech was. After his time was up, the first question was said from the opposition team. Our first speaker, again, had to respond to this. He seemed to lighten up throughout his speech but I could see that he was afraid of messing up. Who wouldn’t be afraid? Soon enough, my question came. This was my time.

I stood up confidentially. I began. The flow came. I was talking much more fluently than I had practiced. All was going well till I saw the timer. Only thirty seconds left and I still had two more palm cards to go through. I started to worry that I would not be able to make it through out the speech. Therefore, I gave up the last card and hoped that during the ‘Questions without Notice’ session, someone would bring up a question relevant to my last card. Luckily, another school’s member brought up the question I wanted. I was very happy and my confidence levels boosted. I stood up fearlessly and spoke. It felt amazingly good to have the question I wanted brought up. Finally, when our debate was over, the Speaker did a show of hands to see how many members we convinced and did not convince. Unfortunately, we could not convince the majority of members. But I didn’t feel bad, I tried plus I didn’t lose anything.

After morning tea, our team was to question another school. This was a very easy task and I felt that we could ace it. After three debates, we were prepared to say our questions confidentially. This time, I could see that our team had no fear, no worries, simply put; we had no negative feelings whatsoever. After the opposition school had introduced which side they were fighting for. Then, I fired away the first question. I felt good; really good. Once my question time was up, the opposition school was then to answer. I simply waited for flaws that I could later bring up in the ‘Questions without Notice’ session.

After our session was over, the Speaker, once again, requested a show of hands to see who were and weren’t convinced. To my amazement, the majority of people were not convinced. We had won. We had won one debate! Oh how wonderful it felt to have won a debate after weeks of research. Speaker Rattenbury honoured us with Certificates. But true honour I felt when I was congratulated by my father, my debate wining was celebrated by my parents at home.

Want to know my encouragement throughout these debating experiences? It was my parents. My father pushed me to do my best, taught me all the debating skills I needed in order to give a good competition. And my mother was always there for me even though she embarrassed me once when she continuously talked about our flaws when my friend was in the car. Aside from that, she was my main source of encouragement during my parliamentary debate.

So you see… debating isn’t such a bad thing. As my father always says, you won’t lose anything. Instead, you’ll gain something new. And it’s true, I didn’t lose anything. In fact, I developed better public talking skills, gained confidence, met new people, and, strangely above all, had fun.

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