By Juan Carlos Flores Montesinos
I am a person who thinks that coincidences do not exist: everything happens for a reason.
Since 2005, I have been teaching Spanish Language and Literature at CCE Virgen del Pasico. In 2015, in the most random and unexpected way, debate and public speaking crossed my professional -and personal- path, embarking on an adventure that I am still passionate about today: implementing debate and public speaking in the classroom. At that time, Virgen del Pasico participated for the first time with three teams in the Debate League at school level organized by the Activa-t Educational Foundation. And it seems to have worked… From that experience, the activity has been permeating the students of Primary, Secondary and Baccalaureate. In the 2019 academic year, given the high number of interested students, I went a step further by making them part of the decisions: the first Board of Directors of the Debate Classroom was formed. Among its responsibilities, in addition to seeking self-financing formulas, was also the training in rhetoric of other colleagues who were starting in the activity. I chose to share and I was surprised to find that there was a willingness on their part to get involved and relate to build together, outside the context of formal classes, and feeling a greater motivation for it, at the same time that we have been accompanied by the different institutions and entities.
Although it is an extracurricular activity -in our center it is taught in the afternoons-, as far as possible, I try to establish connections in the classroom with my subject and generate the need and taste for being critical of everything that is read, said and expressed (either orally or in writing).
In my particular case, I cannot deny that it is a challenge, a great responsibility, and that it is often complicated. As a teacher, to the passion and dedication involved, I add the constant daily review of the process. However, today there are many reasons that prevent me from giving it up because “it is much more than debate and oratory, much more than in favor or against and evidences”. I have always understood the word as a necessary and effective tool to reflect and respond to problems that the past, the present and the future have in store for us as a society.
For several years, the Aula de debate Virgen del Pasico has been actively participating throughout a school year in more than ten activities related to public speaking and debate at a national level; activities that, even in times of Covid, have been adapted to the virtual world.
In short, for me, this activity has an indisputable transforming power. Each year is a new challenge, a new opportunity for personal growth that is loaded with objectives: I want my students to be more responsible, more independent; I want to be able to develop in them the culture of effort and for them to appreciate that when it seems to be enough, they can still do a little more. I undertake each school year with responsibility, but also as a new opportunity to get to know, grow and continue learning with and from others, more open and expectant to the world around me. Because where you least expect it, a new opportunity to continue sharing appears.
This year, debate and public speaking will once again be present at IMAT. The presence of debate in the classroom is increasing and, each year, more and more centers are joining to promote its implementation and development. That is why, from IMAT, we want to continue encouraging schools and teachers to continue betting on this wonderful discipline, since the success stories are growing and more frequent.
Keywords: Debate, Rhetoric, Oratory, Classroom