Every week, we hear from adults who believe in the power of debate and want to bring it to kids in their community. Most of the messages include questions, like:
- Do I have to have a debate background to lead a club?
- How do I get my community engaged?
- How will your curriculum help?
- How do I do it!?
We could talk all day about our program and its benefits, but we thought it might be more helpful to get insight from others who are using DebateAble's curriculum in their clubs.
Tug of Words Debaters
This month, we're spotlighting Tug of Words, a debate club founded in 2017 by Namitha Pai in Aurora, Illinois. The club name was selected by its debaters, who've already competed against each other in debate matches!
We spoke with Namitha to learn more about her debate club and her experience as their coach.
Tug of Words Debate Club
Coach and Founder: Namitha Pai
Coach Background: No debate or teaching experience. Toastmaster.
Profession: Full-time IT professional, Federal Reserve System. Passionate about communication as a key skill for all ages.
Debaters: Grades 3-8 (more than 50 alums.)
Meetings: Weekly, in local community center, library or Coach’s home.
Why did you start a debate club?
It started with wanting my own kids to learn debate. The strongest reason for teaching debate is to make kids understand that, “If I disagree with you, it does not mean I dislike you.” I focus on inclusivity first, and then listening, comprehension, critical thinking and speaking.
Why did you choose DebateAble's curriculum?
I can go on and on about it! I was looking for a great summer debate activity. After a lot of physical search in my area and online, I found DebateAble, where the thinking and curriculum lined up exactly with my goals.
What do you like about DebateAble’s curriculum?
It's a complete package.
It’s age appropriate.
It leaves room for the coach to learn and customize.
It’s repeatable without getting boring.
What could DebateAble do better?
More and more topics! Keep building your library of evidence packets.
What skills have your students learned through your debate club?
Respect. Listening. Body language. Careful crafting of messages. Public speaking. Teamwork.
Has anything surprised you about teaching debate to kids?
I wasn't sure kids would be interested or engaged. I was pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed the sessions.
What advice would you give to someone looking to lead a debate club?
Young kids are very curious and very impressionable at the same time. I think it’s very important for coaches to do their homework and be honest. It’s okay to not have all of the answers! Engage them in conversations and appeal to their yearning to analyze and create their own messages.
What do you mean by "do their homework"?
Because the curriculum is complete and simple to follow, my suggestion is to take the time to read it prior to embarking on the journey. Also, before each class, have a mental picture of the topics to be covered on that particular day. I never read directly from the scripts provided but also never simply try to “wing it."
Before we go, can you tell us about someone who inspires you?
My brother, Nitin Pai! It's from him that I learned to stand my ground but also acknowledge my failures. He founded Takshashila Institution in India to follow his life long passion of being a change-agent instead of simply complaining or resigning to one's fate. He's an eloquent speaker (he is a TED speaker), an ardent reader and deep thinker.