[I try to keep a composition notebook as somewhat of a journal, but I figure I should start posting my experiences here.]
I think I had my smallest turnout ever today— a total of 6 young bros showed up—which is cool because I’ve had groups as large as 20-25 and with me being the only adult it was extremely difficult to manage (and feed) them all at one time. Smaller groups are more intimate. We usually begin the meetings with just frolicking around. We talk about the latest in sports news or we joke around with one another. I may go around the room and ask questions about girlfriends, crushes, problems at school or home, just random things. I don’t know if this is apropos or not, but to me, it lets me get to know them on a more personal level, and it also helps them to get to know me a little more as well, almost as “one of the boys” type of guy. Again, many may disagree but I think it helps kids relate to me and become more comfortable with me.
Today’s theme was a continuation of our initial communication exercises that we began back in November. I tried to give them a lot of practice speaking to a large group using the 30-second impromptu speech game which turned out to be a lot of fun, by the way. The objective now is to continue to build off those skills learned, and what better way to do that than to begin teaching the art of debate? I opened our session with a clip from the movie, The Great Debaters, and we discussed effective communication skills observed as well as other characteristics that make a good debater.
Then, I showed them a clip of one of my favorite educators, Salaam Thomas El, author of I Choose to Stay, on FOX News debating two of the biggest members of the hip-hop community at the time, Cam’Ron and Damon Dash. The debate centered on the impact of rap
music on young, inner city kids. Since this is a very poor example of a good debate because of Cam’Ron’s poor etiquette and untrained street antics, and of course, Bill O’Reilly’s nonsense, I felt this would be a great clip to juxtapose with The Great Debaters so they
could get a better grasp of effective and ineffective communication.
Due to time constraints, I didn’t get the opportunity to give them a little “hands-on” activity with debating where I actually “teach” them, so I decided I’d save that activity for next week. So in the end, I wrapped it up with a reminder that poise is one of the greatest strengths in your interpersonal relationships, and further, in debating. I stressed the importance of controlling one’s anger for the smooth flow of rational thought and decision-making. As effective debaters should have poise as one of their greatest strengths, so do men, especially African-American men. All in all, it was an ok day, but I could’ve been a little more prepared since the whole theme for the day didn’t come to me until the day came. It should’ve been planned out a little better, but I’m still happy with the day’s outcome.