A few months ago, I wrote to you about the importance of coaches to urban debate. Urban debate coaches recruit students for the debate team, teach them how to debate, coach them at tournaments, and mentor them throughout high school. They also are classroom teachers who carry a full teaching load. When they volunteer to coach, most of them have no experience with debate. They volunteer, because they recognize that debate will help their students succeed.
These coaches need and deserve our support. Currently, our leagues introduce coaches to debate through training workshops. But, we are finding that this is not enough. To be effective, teachers need curriculum. A complete curriculum includes learning objectives, lesson plans, resource materials (books, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course) and assessments. If an experienced teacher has a good curriculum, he or she can teach almost any subject, including debate.
That is why NAUDL is developing the first and only curriculum designed specifically for urban debate coaches. Yes, others have developed curricula for debate, but, these materials are useless to urban debate coaches. Our coaches target at-risk students who often are reading below grade level. This means that coaches must build their debaters’ literacy skills and critical thinking skills at the same time. To do that, they need a curriculum that is designed specifically for them.
This has become one of our highest priorities. We plan to develop this curriculum this summer and to pilot it in several leagues before making it more widely available. We believe that by helping our debate coaches become more effective debate teachers, we will fuel growth across the urban debate network.