You Want Me to What?
Posted Monday, February 28, 2005, 08:36 AM
Ever notice how when you have done something for a long time, you sometimes forget how confusing it was when you first started? Yeah…I came face to face with his reality two weeks ago, and again this weekend.
I’m low on funds, as anyone who has read my blog knows, and needed to come up with some kind of a cash flow. Well, one of my closest friends approached me and said that I should consider judging speech and debate tournaments. They pay about $10 per session you judge, and you can judge as many as 8 rounds in a typical day, and most tournaments last three days. The math wheels in my head, which admit ably never have spun quite right that I can remember, started to spin. It was not the best money in the world, but If my fiancé and I were to both judge a whole week end, we would actually walk away with enough money to pay the bills we have to pay (credit cards be dammed) and eat too.
All I had to do was go on the internet, read a document, and send an e-mail to some organization stating my name, and contact info, and promise that I meet the requirements to be a judge (College Degree or equivalent experience for higher levels). Essentially, it was easier than getting licensed as a Minster over the Internet; you have to pay to be licensed as a minister.
So we did our first tournament, which consisted of kids ages 12-18. I latter, after the fact, found out that the tournament that weekend had consisted of mainly home schoolers and various small Christian schools. Let’s just say, I should have know after hearing debate rebuttal statements like “there is no threat of war in the Middle East at this time, we have removed Sadam Husain from power.” Not the most open minded, or most informed kids, but fun nonetheless.
We also judged college level debate this last weekend. College debate was a world of difference, and a welcome changed most of the time. The pathetic part was finding college competitors that were far worse than some of the mediocre 12 year olds form the week before. But I digress.
We show up to judge our first round of debate, and are given an orientation. “Just fill out the form, and judge them on the quality of their argument.” Not hard right. So, we look at the form, and suddenly I feel like I’m reading something from a chemistry class. Lots of boxes to rank, evaluate, and give comments on. And then, someone mentions that you will have to time this event as well. And, don’t forget, that you will need something to trace your arguments on as the debate proceeds.
I never took notes in high school, and very little in college. I just don’t work that way. And timing with hand signals to let the debaters know how much they have left? This is not what I singed up for. I thought I was going to sit there, circle some markers for performance in different areas, and write down why I though one side as better than the other. At my fiancé’s suggestion (she honestly is the brains of this outfit) we sit the first round out and observe a debate.
We then ambush the judge after the round, and see what she did. We got a brief over view of time signals, and how those work. But then she showed us her notes. I then saw, what looked like a time line mapping out humanity. Here on her legal pad, this judge had the whole debate mapped out in detail. She had every point each team brought up, and how each team had countered. She had “flowed” everything over that had been dropped and not addressed, and she had connected all the stuff that was addressed. AND IT WAS COLOR CODED!!!!!
Needless to say, we did not judge any debate rounds. we did Individual events where you just have to rate one speaker on weather they deliver the speech well, did it have relevance, and did they stay on topic. We also got see a great round of of Humorous Interp; you take a comedy piece and trying modify it to fit into a ten minuet block. All in all, we were fine doing the Individual events, but avoided the Debate like the plague.
Week two, we were now in College territory. And we had to judge debate, because that is all there was the first day of the tournament. We hunkered down, and pulled on our limited instruction, and did our best. Thankfully, it was not that painful. The competitors are apparently used to getting “new judges” and were very nice to us. So as the day went on, I developed my own kind of judging style. Because the first rule that anyone will tell you is…”The judge is ALWAYS right.”
I look back on my experience these last two weeks and wonder, after all the stress I had of not know what the hell I was doing, how many times I take for granted that I know how to do some complicated things. And not only that, but I sometimes put unrealistic expectations on people, that they should be able to do something like I do without much training/teaching. But the reality is that sometimes I get so immersed things that I forget what it is like to be on the outside looking in.
Are we confidant in our judging skills? Hardly! We both have a long way to go before we feel we can not only judge who is the better debater, but do justice to the effort that the teams put into the event. It’s one thing to walk in and say that one team wins because they were more convincing. The point of these tournaments is to let the competitors know WHY they were more convincing. But, I think with some practice, we can become speech and debate judge pros. We have a tournament coming up in two weeks (wee need a break), and we are looking forward to it.