Thursday, June 28, 2012

Handling Odd Ballots

I saw a poll on Facebook once that asked CHSADKs whether they loved or hated speech & debate ballots. The overwhelming answer was "Both." Which seems pretty accurate to me. The speaker and debater in each of us wants desperately to improve, and listening to ballots is generally a pretty good way to do so. And honestly, some ballots are gold. Maybe the judge ripped your speech up and still ranked you high enough to break. Maybe it's from a favorite alumni of yours and is therefore genius. Maybe it's extremely insightful and helpful regardless of ranking. Whatever the case, I've had some pretty good ballots in my day, and you probably have to. However, every once in a while a ballot may slip into your fingers that brings the debater in you right out, and not necessarily in a good way. So how do you react to your ballots?

Sometimes, we simply slip into a phase known as "denial."
"What?" you say to yourself. "How could he possibly say my characters aren't distinct when the last ballot commended me for just that? He clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. Sure, my characters were kind of similar. I mean, yea, they all had the same accent, were about the same age, and did a lot of the same things. But still, they were totally different. This judge is crazy." Then part of you starts to think that maybe he's right, and maybe you should've done whatever it was better, and maybe you should take any advice you can get from this ballot- but, no. That's ridiculous.

Or, we could react with a witty comeback. I once got a ballot that said very little other than, "Your plot was vague. 5th & Below" to which I replied, "Ha! Your ballot is vague!" And the ballot had nothing to say to that, I'll tell you what.
Frankly, there didn't really seem to be anything I could learn from this ballot, because there wasn't really anything wrong with the plot. So I got a little argumentative. I'm sorry. But it's true. And I amused myself, so I was okay with it.

Alternatively, you could laugh at ballots (as opposed to your own responses to them). Haven't you ever got a ballot that you read and wondered what the judge was thinking? I mean, some of those are the ones you can't even read. Other times, you get a ballot and wonder if they got you mixed up with someone else, perhaps the kid who went before you in an IE or the fellow you were debating against (or your duo partner. I think that happened to me once), because their feedback doesn't appear to have anything to do with you. Or sometimes ballots are just really silly. I got a particularly interesting ballot recently, which began "I DO NOT LIKE THIS STORY" and then complained of all the misery in my DI. But instead of being upset, I laughed. I thought it was funny. Well, not at first. But then I wondered if he wrote than on every ballot. I mean, someone who doesn't appreciate being saddened is not the kind of person one would think would volunteer to judge DI. He must have really hated that 96 minutes. Sorry, man.

In fact, all of the ballots I received that round were odd. My mom decided she didn't trust those judges and I should just ignore them. Another excellent strategy at times, to be used sparingly.

On many occasions, ballots are so odd that you feel obligated to share them with other people, like I just did. I've heard of some pretty funny ballots before. Sometimes, the comments are just really obvious- like a ballot that ranks you first speaker in a debate round and says, "I thought you were the best speaker in the room." Or a ballot that has you in 4th place in an IE and says, "I liked your piece, but there were three others ahead of you." Those are always amusing. Maybe there are certain comments you get a lot, such as remarks on your poise, correcting pronunciation, commending your accents for the 25th time, or "What a big voice from such a little girl!" (I get that last one a lot.) Other times, remarks from judges are funny because they're actually trying to be funny, and those are the very best kind. If you share odd comments with other people, things tend to be a lot more fun.

Honestly, ballots can be frustrating sometimes: a judge votes you down for an argument the other team never brought up, claims you didn't have a thesis or roadmap when you did, disagreed with your platform and didn't want to be persuaded, decided your interp was actually not an interp... whatever the case, we've all been there. It's easy to get angry with these ballots. Is it fair? Yea, maybe, sometimes. Not always, but not never. Is it worthwhile? Nope. Is it more fun to laugh? Always.

You're homeschooled, which explains why people say weird things about you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing Your Name on the Board

One time, a couple weeks ago, I had this one HI which started out with me yelling, "ALRIGHT EVERYBODY, SETTLE DOWN." and then later I said, "My name is..." and at this point I turned around and grabbed an invisible marker. I took off the cap and wrote about 17 letters on an imaginary dry erase board. Then I drew a period. Then I underlined it. Then I put the pen down, turned around and said, "...Coach."

That's it. That's my story. People laughed in real life.

I didn't have a lot of experience with writing my name on the board this last year in debate. It happened like, twice. Which is a real shame. So I told this story instead. I hope you liked it.

As was previously documented, I always enjoy when debaters write their names on the board behind them. I'm pretty sure the idea is so that the debaters won't forget their names in the course of the round. That would be bad. However, even though this process looks like it could be simple, it really requires quite a bit of thinking. Allow me to explain:

Step One: The Initial Placement
If you're anything like me, don't try to write too high. You'll have to stand on your toes or grab a chair and that's just embarrassing. Make sure you find juustt the right spot to write your name: not so high that you can't reach, but not so low no one can see it. This is probably not an issue for tall people. I wouldn't know. Also make sure it's on your side of the room. Then you're good.

Step Two: The Spell-Check
Hopefully this is not a problem with LDers. But hey, you never know. If you've prematurely forgotten what your name is or how to spell it, you have a couple options. Option A is to check your name tag. Those things are usually pretty accurate as far as appellations go. Of course, there could have been an issue where your mom spelled her own last name wrong, which is also yours, on your nametag. But that doesn't happen very often. Only to me. If that is the case, Option B is to check the fancy little namecard that some tournaments print up for us, which can really come in handy if you left your name tag in your last IE room. My friends don't like the name cards because they fall down, but I think they're awesome. I only had one at one tournament this year and I was SO EXCITED but then I lost it in my debate bag and couldn't find it for the first four rounds, but whatever. If I had had one then, I could've checked it to see how my name is spelled. If you're a TPer, you've got another complicated moniker to remember how to spell. If your partner's got a name like, say, Pardeep Pasricha, [/subtle shoutout] you might want to check her nametag or card to see how her name is spelled. 'Cause it would be embarrassing to mess that one up.

Step Three: Aff or Neg
If there's anything worse than urging a ballot in favor of the other team by telling the judge to vote Negative when you're actually Affirmative, it's identifying yourself as the wrong side of the resolution right from the get-go. Don't do it. If you're the 1A, be sure to write that. You'll confuse the heck out of some poor judge if there are two 2Ns on the board. Just don't.

Step Four: Legibility Verification
This is not a flow sheet. This is not a sticky-note to your partner. This is not a signature on a script submission form, and you are not filling out a ballot. This is something you actually want people to be able to read. Which also applies toward the ballot thing, but some judges don't understand that. Anyway, as soon as you write all that you need to write on that board, make sure we actually can read your transcription, please and thank you.

Step Five: Sit Down
Don't be a board-hog. Share the space. Let the other team write their names too.

The best part of when people write their names on the board is sometimes when they forget one or five of these steps. From an audience perspective, I mean. Basically because it's funny. But don't do it.

I also like when big-name debaters have handwriting that makes them look like they're 7 years old. It's amusing to me, though not really that surprising. Homeschoolers. You know how they are.

You're homeschooled. Write that down. That's very important.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting a First on a Ballot

Once at a tournament last year, I was at an awards ceremony and had just been in finals in an event. I had actually just taken second place, and I was pretty excited. I began walking around the church where the ceremony was held and saw a friend of mine reading his ballots. It was his first year, and he hadn't broken in his speech. (Broken? Breaked? Break-ed? I'm not really sure what the past tense ought to be.) I felt a little sorry for him, but as I soon realized, I shouldn't have. He called out to me:
"Chandler! Someone gave me a first!"

I stood there for a moment, holding my overly large trophy and feeling ridiculous. For an instant, I wondered if this was his first First. It probably was. I smiled and wholeheartedly replied, "Congratulations."

One of the zillions of things I love about new people is how excited they get when they realize they got first place on a ballot. I know I can get too wrapped up wondering why I'm not winning events to realize how cool it is to get a high ranking from a judge. But it's good to realize. It's good to remember. Sure, a circled number 1 on a ballot is not the most important thing about speech and debate. But isn't it cool?

It's good to know that hard work is being recognized. I mean, those who want to do well are going to put a lot of work into our speeches (especially in late May). We write a lot of Apologetics cards, do a lot of extemp research, rewrite our platforms a lot, work a lot on character distinction, practice a lot with Expos boards with the hopes of avoiding dropping too many things in the round, and all that is when we're not working on debate. Which is also a lot. Just last night I was talking to a friend of mine who recently became a non-novice. She was telling me about how extemp was a lot of work and stuff. I could only nod and pretend to understand, because I don't do extemp and now you know why. (but I do other stuff so I can still sympathize.) Anyway, she also told me about how somebody had given her a first place once. I was really proud of her. Even if she didn't qualify, even if she didn't break, even if she had only gotten 5ths & Belows except for that one judge (which was not actually the case), I was proud because she works hard and somebody noticed. It's a good feeling when that's recognized.

Having someone give you a first is fun too when no one else does. Not all speeches are worthy of a first place, as a lot of first-time observers and indecisive judges would have you believe. Not everybody can get first. So lots of times, you don't. And then sometimes you do. I don't know if you've noticed, but ranking speeches is incredibly subjective and results can be all over the hypothetical map. I had a speech earlier this year that was in finals in one of those little tournaments where they only qualified the top 4 or so. I took 7th. My five ballots consisted of four 5ths and Belows and one 1st. I still remember who gave me that ballot. Why? Because I felt really special. I ended up dropping that speech later on and doing another instead, but I still fondly remember that one time when someone liked it. Thank you, anonymous judge, for making me smile.

Additionally, receiving even one first place on a ballot is an excellent self-confidence boost. Think about it: out of seven or eight kids who are brave enough to do this public speaking thing too, somebody liked your speech best. That's pretty exciting. You can only go up from there, right? So at the end of the day, as those debaters are so fond of saying, it's important to remember that competition isn't everything and not get too caught up in it. But don't forget how great it feels to get a first. You worked hard for that thing. It's cool.

You're homeschooled. You win.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Displaying Trophies and Medals In A Rather Impressive Manner

I don't know about you people, but this is what my bedroom looks like after a few years of speech & debate:

Ok, not really. I stole this from some strategy lab website that's apparently a lot better at strategizing than I am at speeching. WHATEVER. Stop laughing at me.

Anyway. Though I may not have quite this many trophies to display, I do make it a point to organize my awards as best I can. Sort of. In reality, I put them all on a bookshelf in the back of my room where people typically don't even see them, but I arranged them according to height so they can all be seen and hung the medals on a hanger-thing in the order I received them. I definitely put thought into it. But that's just one way to do it. There are multiple ways to display various awards that I've seen employed or would really like to:

1. On The Fireplace Mantel
This is only for parents who really love their kids and are very, very proud and want all the world to know it to the point where all the world is a little annoyed. No, my parents did not let me put my trophies on the fireplace mantel. There are no medals hanging around my living room. And I'm pretty ok with that. But clearly, if they really wanted everyone who stops by for dinner or to try and sell something to know how wonderful I was, they'd put the trophies someplace visible like right over the fireplace.

2. All Over Your Bedroom
This is pretty fun, especially if you've been around long enough to collect a good deal of medals. Just hang them everywhere! It'll look great! Doorknobs, dresser drawers, closet doors, shelves, cabinets, you name it. You can't go wrong with a bedroom that screams "Winner!"

3. On A Mannequin
Just because a mannequin wearing lots of medals would look cool.

4. In A Vending Machine or Phone Booth
Just because both of these would be awesome in someone's house.

5. On The Piano
All homeschoolers play the piano, so why not show off your speech and debate accomplishments while you amaze us all with your mad music skills? My friend put a bunch of trophies on her piano, which looked pretty awesome. She has lots of siblings who did really well in speech and debate too, so their house has a lot of awards. They also put some on a dresser or something upstairs that was clearly visible in an open window and apparently, in boxes in the garage.

6. In A Dresser Or Something Upstairs That Is Clearly Visible In An Open Window
To make all of your neighbors and clubmates jealous.

7. In Boxes in the Garage
Though this is only fun if you have so many that they won't fit comfortably in the house. I assume.

8. On Top Of The Bookshelf So You Have To Be Careful When You Open and Shut It Or Everything Will Shake A Lot and Maybe Fall Down As You Discover Every Time You Slam The Door
Which I have, of course, never, ever done.

Those are my ideas. What's your strategy? The important thing is that you do something with the stash of awards you're bound to end up with. They give those things away for everything. But that doesn't mean they aren't special. Trophies and medals are excellent representatives of the hard work and lots of time we put into practicing. They're good reminders of the game we live and love. Medals, trophies, rocks, and even certificates of participation make for excellent incentives to keep on speaking, debating, timing, or whatever it is they're giving awards for these days.

You're homeschooled. Impressive.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Being Adopted By Alumni

I'll start off with a couple of definitions to promote clarity in the round. Post. Just one definition, though. Whatever. Ahem:

Alumni: a person/persons who competed in Stoa or NCFCA for any amount of time and no longer does so but hangs around and pretends like he/she still does. (Dictionary of Christian Homeschool Forensics, volume 1)

One of my most favorite favoritest things about alumni is their general willingness to help out those who are currently competing. Speech & debate is a lifestyle, so it's probably hard to let go of it when the time comes. To make the best of the gobs and gobs of free time they obviously have in college, they often come back and help out at club. Or teach at camp. Or help out other people via the Internet. Whatever the method of helpfulness, one of the best ways alumni can prove their awesomeness and help out those in need is by adopting CHSADKs.

To adopt a competitor is not to have them start living at you house or anything, but rather, to help them with their speeches, cases, responses, strategy, ect. throughout the year. There are several major advantages to being adopted by a former competitor.

Advantage 1: Amazing Insight
Alumni know where it's at 'cause they've been there before. They know what judges are looking for and what they'd like to see or not see in a round. They know what works and what doesn't, so they're the perfect persons to send your script to, 1AC to, or go to for advice on speech, debate, and life in general. Feel free to send multiple emails a week to the alumni whom you've chosen. (or perhaps, who's chosen you. Never mind. Now is not the time to get into a predestination debate) Seriously, they love that. You'll love it too. Nothing will bring you greater joy than getting an almost completely-rewritten copy of your speech back from your adopted alumni a week or two before the National tournament. It's so great.

Advantage 2: Specific Feedback
I asked my current alumni helper-buddy for his advice on a platform I'm doing that was like one he had done, and a topic I knew he was passionate about too. It's worked out splendidly. I first enlisted his help back in November, but it turned into an all-year thing since I keep rewriting it and also he comes to lots of tournaments and makes me do my speech for him even though I get nervous. Actually, he doesn't make me. But anyway. It's super cool to find an alumni person who can give advice specifically related to your speech, because they've fought the same battles and think about the same stuff and know exactly what to say. Today I saw that happen to another girl, who had just given her speech when a former speech-er was watching, and I knew it was because he had done a similar speech, and it made me really happy.

Advantage 3: Moral Support/All-Star Sponsorship
Your adopted alumni-coach wants you to win. Seriously. If you win, they win. It's what we call a win-win. So they'll be there to give a thumbs-up and ask how things are going. My alumni coach was the trophy-giving-out-person at a tournament awards ceremony where I was in finals with the speech he helped me with. That was super cool. Not to mention, you just feel better about yourself when you know someone amazing is rooting for you. And helping you. And watching you and making you feel nervous. And also awesome.

You're homeschooled. Clearly, you need help.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Flying to Tournaments

YOU GUYS. I'm on an airplane right now.

(Granted, I'll probably post this on Monday, when I will have gotten off the plane. But that's a sad thought.)

NO BUT SERIOUSLY. I'm literally in the sky right now, on my way to NITOC. How cool is that? Those who know me are probably aware of my deep affinity for airplanes, matched only by my thrill at the prospect of being at a tournament in a matter of days.

Also, my sister keeps glancing at the screen upon which these words are materializing, and usually when she does that I leave ridiculous messages for her, so I'll have to be sure to delete all of those.

This is pretty exciting, everyone. We're officially on our way. The Expos stuff was dropped off with a family who is driving to Colorado in a large car, the suits are in a bag in the overhead compartment, and HI REGANNNNNNNNNNN :D LOL WE'RE GOING TO COLORADO HAHAHAHAHAHAH the script submission is in my carry-on bag next to my toes, because I'm too paranoid about losing that thing to check it. I'm ready. Granted, I fully intent to practice my speeches a gazillion times at the hotel, but besides that, I'm ready.

Having never been to an out-of-state tournament, I'm not really sure how different this one will be. I don't really know anyone outside of California. Will I meet a ton of new people? What will the judge pool be like? Will they have completely different ways of doing things, like shaking the judge's hands before speaking instead of after, or self-timing IEs? Probably not, but still, if they did, I would be the last to know.

You know how it's generally really hard to get up really, really early, but if you know it's for a good reason, you have no trouble getting out of bed? That was me at 4:15 today. I'm excited, people. I get to see a bunch of cool people on Tuesday, and speak at people, and watch other people race tricycles (@NCFCA- I'm serious. I don't know what they were thinking, but it's bound to be entertaining.) and REGAN STOP WATCHING hopefully acquire some sort of memorabilia. Well, a T-Shirt is guaranteed. Hopefully maps will be included as well. And I was also excited because I knew I was going on a plane. So far, I'm really enjoying this flying to a competition thing. All tournament transportation should be done in this manner.

So, Colorado. This is like a whole new state for us to rock, new territory to conquer, and new people to wow. We're going to have so much fun.

You're homeschooled. Prepare for take-off.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Practicing a Ton Right Before Nationals

Ok, people. NITOC is only a few days away. How many times have you practiced in the last two weeks? How many impromptus have you done? How many times have you read the 1AC out loud? If you're anything like me, you've probably done your speeches more times in the last few days than you had throughout the entire season. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it certainly feels that way.

But then, why wouldn't you? It won't do you any good practicing a week from now. By then, it'll be too late. That is, unless you're in finals and you want to run through something one more time, but just assume that the competition will be over by then for you. That was supposed to be motivational, not pessimistic. Never mind. Anyway, just think. In a matter of days, you will say goodbye to your interp characters maybe forever (unless someone makes you do your speech in the summer, which happens). You'll never give your platform speech again (unless your mom wants you to give it for family or in front of some other audience). You'll never have to give another impromptu, extemp, or apologetics speech either (unless you're coming back next year or perhaps demonstrating at a summer camp). And unless you plan on running your Policy case as a non-Topical-and-probably-Perm-able counter-plan or something next year, you'll probably never deal with that thing again. And I don't think there's any reason you'd read LD cases after Nationals. Just say goodbye to those too.

So once you've come to these bittersweet realizations, then what? This is where the practicing comes in. Now, near the end of the season, a lot of people tend to get tired of their pieces. Which makes sense, especially if you've had them since September or even earlier. The HI is less funny, the DI is less sad, the OI is less... sad or funny or something. You're less passionate about your platform and- wait a minute, you say to yourself. Nationals begins in a matter of days! I can't be bored and complacent! I don't have time for that sort of behavior! I have practicing to do!

And it's true. So you practice and practice and practice. And once you start, it feels wrong to stop. You find yourself reciting speeches in the shower, practicing characters' voices in the car, and dreaming of the perfect solvency advocate. Or staying up until 4 AM looking for the perfect solvency advocate. After all, you can sleep after NITOC.

You're homeschooled. Let's do this.