In a post-Covid world, t is a nice feeling to see things slowly going back to normal. It is not quite at where we were before the pandemic froze the world, but we are now taking the steps to get back to that place. For instance, I have talked about how I have moved to Jordan a year and a half ago to start teaching there, and one of the programs I picked up was the Speech and Debate, or Forensics program. It was something that had been huge at the school, and one of their prides, but when I came last year, it was hard to get students to want to participate in the event. All we had to offer was a weekend where we would meet at school and have a virtual meet where we competed against schools from India, and Africa. After being weary of being on-line all the time for classes, and not really knowing what Forensics was all about, we only had a few of the dedicated ones who helped keep the program alive for one more year. This year was a little different as we were invited to a meet in Africa, and could entice people to join by promising them that this would be the culminating event. Still participation was weak, but we the enthusiasm was up from the previous year. It felt like jumpstarting the program from scratch, but in the end everything came together to produce a great event that surprised me in more ways than one.
The first was how amazing the trip was. It was nice to be able to take a trip with students again. We didn’t just go down to participate in the meet, but we also made sure to include some cultural experiences as well. We were able to go visit a nature preserve, and explore the Apartheid Museum, two dramatically different experiences, but ones the students will never forget. Despite this, we were also able to enjoy the regular cultural experiences, nice hospitality, and a new cuisine that none of us were really familiar with.
We were also able to make some new friends. In fact, I was really proud of the way my students got out of their comfort zones and got to know the other participants around them. What I like about forensics as an extra-curricular activity is that it is not always about winning. It is more about gaining a skill set that the ones who participate will be able to use later in their lives. And they know that they are not going to be amazing at it to begin with. The whole experience is about the growth in the field, and when they go into it with that mindset, the people that they are competing against are not enemies, but other friends who are going through the same experience that they are. All it takes is the right attitude, and I am proud of my students for having that attitude. By the end of the event it was fun to see them mingling with kids from other schools, and cheering for each other at the award ceremony. They were sharing Instagram accounts and making plans to stay in contact with each other even though they lived over a thousand miles away from each other. It was what made me proud for having had been a part of this trip.
But this wasn’t the only thing that made me proud of what they were able to accomplish. Even though, for most of the students that came, this was the first time that they ever competed in a forensics tournament, they all did exceptionally well. It was fun to watch to them compete for four rounds. With each proceeding round, they did better and better. And on the second night of the tournament, when they starting naming who would be in the finals, and they could barely contain their excitement, I loved to watch them jump up and down when they got the news that they wanted to hear. And finally, when they started to hand out trophies for first, second, and third place in each category, I was just as excited to see them walk across the stage to receive their trophy as they were.
Overall, it was great to have these trips start up again, and it is also interesting to see that every school is on the same playing field. Each one of them struggled with putting a team together, and making sure that their students stuck with it through the whole season, the same that we did. There was even one school that pulled out at the last minute. Yet, it was important that we took that flight and did our best. If we backed out at the last minute then the program at the school could have faltered, the meet could have been cancelled, and then, it would have been impossible for it to start up again anywhere. It was not the most impressive meet I have ever witnessed, but considering what we all went through the last few years, there isn’t a school in the world that has been able to pull off the impressive meets that they used to have. But this is the first step of getting back to those great events. I’m glad that it happened too, because the benefits of this program is too great to let it go by the wayside. Next year will even be better, and we might even be able to build a season around this one event. I can’t wait to see how this grow over the next year, and I can’t wait to see how it affects my students again.
I wished to add pictures of my students participating in this event, but due to privacy reasons, I declined showing any of these pictures. Instead, I have included other pictures from the trip instead to respect their privacy.