Joey Nguyen is captain of one of eight teams that will participate in a series of debates during the week before semester finals. The debates are the final exams for Mr. Abuel’s AP English Language, or Rhetoric, class. The other captains are Noah JeyaRajah, Trista Bell, Maria Diaz, Molly Settles, Jennifer Daley, Megan Settles, and Nakita Rico. The captains will lead their teams in debating one of four topics, which were announced Friday, December 15.
The teams spent the last week holding practice debates in the library, except for Daley’s and Settles’ teams, which debated in Abuel’s classroom. The teams used official debate format, in order to learn both the format and their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Although the debates were only for practice and not for a grade, many teams spent hours in preparation. For example, one of the captains, Diaz, stayed up until 1:00 AM the morning of her debate working on her conclusion speech. Daley’s team spent two days meeting at a teammate’s house and planning out their parts on a whiteboard.
“We had arrows all over the board,” says Daley.
The captains have each used a different approach in handling their responsibilities as team leaders. Diaz said, “I let them have free reign in this debate.” On the other hand, Daley said that she wrote both of the cross-examination sequences herself, and then asked her team to give input. This method worked well; according to Daley, “We work excellent together.”
There have been challenges, however. Nguyen says, “It’s really hard to be a good leader without worrying about bringing your team down or having them turn against you.”
Many Rhetoric students reported being very nervous before their debates.
Bell said, “I’m just nervous before; I get more comfortable when I get up there.”
Abuel had spent several weeks creating the debate teams for the annual event. Information from the class’s midterm, an argumentative speech assignment, was used to help determine the teams.
According to Abuel, “I think this is the most balanced the teams have ever been.” The debate teams have been arranged so that each has its share of strengths and weaknesses, and no team is any more qualified than the other. Abuel has said multiple times, “The team that wants it the most, wins.”
The practice debates have been seen as a valuable resource by many Rhetoric students. They were intended by Abuel as a way to gauge each team’s abilities and to get to know each other.
“I think that this practice debate helped us come together as a team,” says Bell.
Each team has had its share of shining moments and pitfalls. Some students left their debates proud, others, a bit shaken. However, as Diaz put it, “Overall, I’m super proud of my team.”