Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Speaking Like a Spartan

Posted 10/31/2018 by Kaleb Pittman

Lauren Palek utilizes her leadership and knowledge of writing to help students like Noah Mintz develop their speeches. photo by AJ Domagala

Speech and Debate is a unique and interesting experience that represents the many important values a Spartan should demonstrate.

Independence, creativity, and critical thinking are important skills students focus on honing during this new class. Speech and Debate meets every Tuesday and Thursday during eighth period, and is taught by English teacher Lauren Palek. Within her room, students learn all the oratorical skills they will need to utilize in intensive competition.

Success in this class is not defined by assignment grades and test scores, but instead by student participation in these events. For every event, students can obtain points that reflect the skill and experience of a speaker. Wins yield more points, but losses still reward participants.  Not only is participating in an event an enjoyable outlet for creative and persuasive speech, but the collected points offer students many college-level benefits and opportunities that help with admission hurdles.

There are many different events available for student choice. Original Oratory is a popular option that encourages students to participate in traditional speech and develop persuasive arguments. The Informative event allows students to inform an audience regarding a topic they are passionate about, acting as a more educational alternative to Original Oratory.The Lincoln-Douglas and Congressional debates are where students participate in competitive argument centered around philosophy and politics, respectively. Other speech events consist of Dramatic, Comedic, and Duo Interpretations of plays and stories, where students put their own personal spin on classic scripts. In addition to these categories, there are many more obscure events that Palek’s class could offer preparation for, including: Public Forum debate, Policy debate, and  Extemporaneous Speaking to name a few. Spartans are expected to attend these events early in the morning, often on weekends. While initially such a time-consuming investment might seem intimidating, the students often find the enjoyment of participating in these fun events worth the extra time they devote.

The class’ dedicated teacher, Palek, cannot emphasize the importance of these events enough. “The class is supposed to help you be as prepared as possible for the competitions, so if you’re not participating in the competition, you’re really not going to get anything out of the class.” She relates Speech and Debate to a sport, concluding that “it’s very hands-on; the class is like practice, and competitions are the games.” Due to the time consuming and competitive demands of the class, the rewards for participation are equally as great as the workload. Palek continued, “There’s definitely a reward system beyond the fact that having this on your application makes you a very strong candidate. Colleges love Speech and Debate on student applications, but there’s also the intrinsic reward of becoming a better critical thinker and a better speaker.”

Sophomore Cynthia Lozano-Santoyo, a current member of TJ’s Speech and Debate team, recommends the class for anyone interested. “Ms. Palek is very helpful when we don’t understand something,” Santoyo remarked, “for beginners, it’s really helpful to have everything up front and explained so we know exactly what to do.” Palek’s advice for a strategy on tackling the class’ competitions is: “You have to come up with your debate ahead of time; planning is really important for both affirmative and negative argument because at the event you don’t know what you’ll get, so you have to be prepared for both.”

This year is looking quite hopeful for the current class of Speech and Debate. With many events up for preparation and competitive students willing to take on the challenge of each, TJ will see its Spartans find victory at some of these heated debates. Speech and Debate remains optimistic for success in this year’s competitions, and with Palek at the helm they are sure to have a great year.