My 7th/8th grade Speech and Debate class

About two months ago, SBU student-athletes gathered out in front of the Mott Haven High School campus with tear-filled eyes and heavy hearts as they said goodbye to their friends, their teachers, and their coaches who mentored them throughout the four week Summer Soccer Scholars Program. I can say with full confidence that the goodbyes were equally as hard for the teachers and coaches.

My name is Amanda Cohen and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to teach and coach for South Bronx United this summer. My experience this summer proved to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I taught speech and

debate to the 7th/ 8th grade class and to the 10th grade class.

Students preparing to debate

Effective public speaking is an essential tool for success, fostering confidence and good oratory skills for the students. At the beginning of the program, most students were nervous about speaking in front of an audience. Although it is normal to still be nervous, the students are now more confident speaking publicly because of the practice they had this summer. I couldn’t be more proud of the progress these students made in such a short amount of time.

Once each student increased his or her confidence speaking in front of the class, we got into some really interesting and tough debates. Some favorite topics include: arguing for your favorite soccer player and best superhero, if homework should be allowed, if cell phones should be allowed in school, and if kids under the age of 18 should be allowed to join Facebook. The students learned how to support both sides of an argument, how to construct introductions, rebuttals, and conclusions, and how to construct strong arguments and counterarguments.

Here are a few of the students’ reflections on the course:

“ My favorite part of the class was when we got to debate about Facebook and about superheroes… That [debate] would help me in the future for a job and you could also persuade people…”
-Rachael B.

“… I will use this knowledge [how to debate] to protest in the future. I will use what I learned from speech for a future job interview.”
-Robert R.

“I learned how to use the other side’s information to defend myself from questions they ask me.”
-Douda D.

“My speaking skills could come in handy one day to get into a high school, or college. Also, in high school, college, or even in junior high you can get to debate in front of people.”
-Metzli N.

Overall, I learned just as much as my students did this summer. I learned a lot about teaching and working with children and I hope that I can continue to fight educational inequity and show students the importance of a quality education. I’d like to thank Andrew, Carlos, and the other teacher interns who made the Summer Soccer Scholars Program so successful.

Good luck to all of the South Bronx United scholars both in the classroom and on the soccer field this year! Work hard, play hard, GO SBU!

-Amanda Cohen