By Jennifer de la Haye
This week, I had an opportunity to observe a session of Spyglass, IEA’s new distance learning program that brings professionals and students together via Zoom for specialized workshops. This particular session was the 4th class in a 6-part series for children ages 9-12. The first three classes were about public speaking, and this one was entitled Speech and Debate, taught by master’s candidate Reece Aguilar, Assistant Debate Coach for the University of Southern California. In an hour and a half (which flew by), I personally learned more than I expected to.
This was a beginner’s class, so the instructor started from scratch – he taught us what debate actually is: the act of persuading a skeptical audience to align with your view. He led us through the components of an effective debate, including how to remain unemotional and free of fallacies.
By the end of class, each student was charged with the task of writing a complete argument that might be used in an actual debate. They were given an array of topics to choose from, including whether or not schools should extend recess, whether or not cafeterias should offer free lunch, or whether or not schools should require uniforms. Students were given no more than five minutes to create their arguments, and each one was able to write and deliver their 30-second arguments with articulate confidence.
I am not sure what I expected, but I was riveted the whole time! This was far from a droll lecture; this was an interactive discussion, truly a hands-on workshop. Reece did a fantastic job engaging the children; every student participated in the conversation and the final presentation.
When the COVID-19 pandemic rendered in-person learning unsafe, I was skeptical about the quality of distance learning. I could not picture IEA’s dynamic, interactive programs translating into an online format. After sitting in on both Spyglass and Yunasa, I am convinced that IEA’s teachers and staff have mastered distance learning. And while we would all rather be together, this is the next best thing.