Often our timers are referred to as the "unsung heroes" of Christian homeschooled speech and debate tournaments. And while that may be true sometimes, our timers also receive a lot of love. It's totally warranted, though. How many of us have had judges time us in IEs? Generally, they do pretty well at it; I mean, you only have to press stop and start, in interps and platforms, that is. But when the judges time limited prep speeches, it usually doesn't end as well. I mean, they try to give hand signals, listen, and make notes on the ballots at the same time, but it's hard. It tends not to end well. (I don't know how they do it in college debate.) Rounds like that make me appreciate the little timers even more.
As much as I love all good timers, the best timers are the really accurate ones. Wondering how to be a really accurate timer? I'm glad you asked:
1. Every second counts
Keep that in mind. See, I've timed debate before, so I know how it works. I'm not that great at it, but we'll get to that later. Every timer gets a sheet of paper that has a bunch of boxes on it, each representing ten seconds of prep time in debate. It's easy to get caught up in the ten-second groove, and round up to 40 when a debater uses 38 seconds of prep time. But the accurate and awesome timers don't get lazy like that. They know I'm gonna need those two seconds later. I tried to make sure that the debaters I timed got the right amount of the seconds, and I know it's not easy, because come the next prep time session you'll have to totally rework your counting, since you can't just mark a box every time the timer hits a zero. Nope, now you gotta watch for the eights. It's hard to explain without the timing handbook/paper, but it's important. I hope my people appreciated it. I know I would.
2. Proper Hand Signals
I was timing one of those rounds that I mentioned earlier. It was LD, which is nice because it's shorter than TP, but difficult because the times of speeches and Cross Examination are not nearly as straightforward. Policy is easy to remember: 8, 3, 8, 3, 8, 3, 8, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5. No problems there. LD isn't so straightforward: 6, 3, 7, 3, 4, 6, 3. I only know that because I looked it up on the Stoa rules. There's no pattern at all! It's ridiculous. How am I supposed to remember that when I do LD for real? Anyway, back onto hand signals. This particular speech I'm thinking of was the 4 minute one, I think. The 1AR. I had been keeping a steady eye on my timer, which now read 2:50. Ok, self, I told myself. In 10 seconds, you're going to put up one finger. 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1! And then, thinking about the 10 seconds thing, I put up ten fingers. The poor debater stared at me with really wide eyes which portrayed utter shock at my abominable betrayal, but I very quickly corrected myself and then he laughed softly and probably out of relief and kept talking. I felt sooo bad. So don't be like me, kids. Stay on top of things. We love it when you do that.
3. Yell when the time is up
I'm bad at this too. Wow, I'm just the negative example a lot lately. Anyway, I was always too afraid to cut off a debater mid-Cross Ex just because three minutes was up. Also, I had a non-beeping timer, so that wasn't helpful. I was too scared to even mutter the word, "Time." That's interrupting and interrupting is rude and I'm not even debating anyway, so what right do I have to speak up? Instead I just sat there with my hands in the shape of a T for ten seconds sometimes, panicking internally at the disgusting insubordination. Don't do this either. You are the timer and you are in charge.
I hope you learned a thing or two, should you be timing someday or training younger siblings to time sometime. It's harder than it looks, but becoming a good and accurate timer is an achievable and worthy goal nonetheless. Make sure you thank your timer a lot next time. Shake his hand really emphatically. Consider buying him an ice cream or something. Let them know they are loved.
You're homeschooled, make no mistake.