Newsletters

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter May 2022

 

Welcome to our May Newsletter. A lot has happened in the month, so read below to find out what is going on!

 

First, Our Exciting Upcoming Event

WIDL Student Soapbox June 10!

The WIDL is putting on a speaker’s conference on June 10 and we would love for you to come! Our students have big ideas worth sharing and we want more people to be exposed to the thought provoking, inspirational messages they have to share. The conference will be June 10 at Utah Valley University from 6:30-8:30 followed by a student dance from 8:30-11:00. Price of admission to the conference is $5 and anyone can attend. Adults and youth are invited, and feel free to invite your friends. Tickets for the dance are also $5. The dance is for youth, dress will be casual, and we’re excited to see you at either one or both! You can purchase tickets here

If you are a student in the WIDL, and you would like to submit a speech for the Soapbox Conference, today is your last day to submit a speech! You can use an oratory or a brand new speech. Please submit your speech TONIGHT here: https://forms.gle/TJ9HCyfFTG3kYJAd6

Highlights from April

 

Championship Tournament at BYU

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the WIDL Spring Championship, and thank you to Joseph Roberson and BYU Independent Study for hosting the final tournament of the year. With approximately 265 students competing, we had a great final tournament! Congratulations to our marathon speakers and debaters who competed in the longer than usual tournament. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.


Model United Nations Results

Congratulations to our Model United Nations Team. They competed at the University of Utah on April 19, 2022. Our students represented the countries of Vietnam, Ukraine, Turkey, and Brazil. As a team, our students received a superior ranking (top three in the state and best available ranking). Individually, we had a number of students receive commendations including-

  • Superior Ratings

    • Abe Olenslager and Max Madsen

    • Sariah Schramm and Zachary Grant

    • Avery Prout and Zak Shelley

    • Ben Ferguson and Daniel Boyd

    • Emma Rollins and Evy Burns

    • Elijah Williams and Jaron Funk

  • Excellent Ratings

    • Rachel Stoddard and Esther Stoddard

    • Peter Hyde and Alexander Henage

    • Ryan Hyde and Bronson Bishop

    • Steve Preston and Caleb McKenzie

    • Shaun Salmond and Eliza Funk

 

Freedom Festival Speech Competition Results

We want to give a big congratulations to a number of our students who competed in the Freedom Festival Speech Competition. After the final round of competition, four out of the top six competitors were from the WIDL and received the following rankings Rankings-

  • Eliza Anderson- 1st Place

  • Abe Olenslager- 2nd Place

  • Bronson Bishop- Honorable Mention

  • Malachi Nielson- Honorable Mention

 

Mock Trial Nationals

Congratulations to members of the league who competed in Mock Trial Nationals earlier this month. Their team went 2-2 in matches at nationals and we are very proud of what they accomplished. The team includes-

  • Peter Hyde

  • Rachel Stoddard

  • Mia Carter

  • Simon Kisby

  • Abe Olenslager

  • Tess Greene

  • Esther Stoddard

Looking Forward

General Registration Now Open

We have wrapped up priority registration and now have general registration open for all Independent Education Program classes including

  • The Wasatch Independent Debate League

  • Gesse Rosa Math and Chemistry Classes

  • Business and Entrepreneurship Classes

  • Constitution and Moot Court Classes

We would love to have your student involved. You can see the schedule of classes here. You can register for classes here. Or you can reach out to have a teacher contact you and answer questions here.


Mock Trial Camp

We will hold our annual Mock Trial Camp August 2-4. Mock Trial Camp is an intense opportunity for students to be introduced to and practice mock trial. It’s a great introduction to legal concepts and practice, involves a lot of student interaction with other students, is academically rigorous, but also a lot of fun. Get the date on the calendar and then look out in next month's newsletter for more details and for the chance to register.

 

 

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have and increased our student body. We plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already adding new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

Insights in Education

A Culture of Responsibility

by Samuel Martineau, General Director of the WIDL

A core memory as I built up the Wasatch Independent Debate League, and now the Independent Education Program, isn’t particularly pleasant to recall. It was years ago and we were having a tournament at the University of Utah. We initially had something like a decent number of students registered for the tournament. Not as many as I wanted to be taking advantage of the opportunity, but at least a reasonable amount.

But then that week we had student after student after student drop out or just not show up at the tournament. I remember that we had reserved a large auditorium and I had expected that we would fill it up reasonably. We had brought representatives from the university to talk about the pathway for homeschooled students to attend the U of U. And they walked in to talk to a group so small it was basically rattling around that auditorium. I was embarrassed because I had told the school that they would have an audience to speak to. I resented the fact that students didn’t seem to be taking the class or the tournaments seriously. I was frustrated that I had done so much work to put on the tournament and students didn’t seem interested. And I remember blaming students, parents, and anyone my mind could get a hold of for being flaky and frustrating.

We finally got the first round of competition started and I remember going into the restroom so no one could find me. I felt angry and stupid and embarrassed. I stood there for a while, I leaned over the sink, I looked at myself in the mirror and I said to myself (out loud), “Sam... you did this.”

It was a powerful moment for me. It was also a true statement. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in the WIDL anymore, and it isn’t because the community that I teach in changed. It's because I changed. In retrospect, there are a lot of reasons that students were dropping out or just not showing up to tournaments left and right, but it primarily came down to my perspective. That day was the day I started saying to myself, “Sam, if you don’t take your program seriously, then no one else will either.” I won’t distract you with the details of what that meant specifically. Rather, I want to point out how transformational it can be to take responsibility for oneself, to look in the mirror and say, “You did this.” The moment that I took responsibility is the moment that the Wasatch Independent Debate League changed from a scrappy fun homeschool program to what I believe and hope has become a major force for good in the homeschooling community.

I would like to identify two reasons that taking responsibility is such a transformative experience. The first is that taking responsibility allows us to deal much more effectively with reality. Taking responsibility is just another way to say that one is being honest about reality in that one is willing to recognize the part that they play in their own lives, regardless of what other factors might also come into play. Let’s take a student and homework as a case study. Over the years I have had so very many students tell me that they didn’t get their homework done because they were busy. I’m sure if you’ve taught teens, you’ve probably heard much of the same. Generally speaking what they are saying is true in one part and false on the whole. On the one hand, they probably were in fact busy. Maybe they had a soccer game during the time they usually do homework, maybe they got behind on their homework for other classes and had to catch up, maybe they went out of town for a couple of days, or they just generally have a cramped schedule. But does this mean that this is the reason that the student didn’t do the homework? Here is a common conversation I have with students-

Me: “Ok. What time did you get up this morning”

Student: “Seven Thirty”

Me: “Could you have gotten up earlier?”

You would be shocked at this juncture to know the number of students who claim that they literally could not have gotten up any earlier for all sorts of reasons. But if the student is feeling reasonable-

Student: “I guess.”

Me: “Are you guessing?”

Student: “No, I could have gotten up earlier.”

Me: “Then is the fact that you were busy the direct reason that you didn’t do your homework?”

Do you see the point? Taking responsibility is about being realistic about the (really big) part that you play in your own life. If, despite how busy you were, you had time to do homework and didn’t, then it was a choice to not do homework. It was a choice that belongs to you. And taking responsibility means being honest about that regardless of what else may be true. In my initial example students did drop out of the tournament because they were being flaky. But what does that matter to me when it is equally true that my own actions were primarily causing my results?

The second benefit of taking responsibility I’ll mention is that, now having a stronger grasp of what is real, responsibility gives one greater ownership of that reality. In other words, being honest about the part you play in your own life bestows upon you ownership over more of your life. Let’s imagine another common scenario in my classes. It comes time to report on homework and Student A reports having completed homework and Student B reports not having completed homework. I ask Student B why they did not complete homework and Student B states that they were in a play, it was tech week, they were literally ......literally busy all the hours of all the days. And yet I happen to know that Student A was in the same play and actually had a larger role. Can you see that Student B sees themselves as owners of less of their life? Their willingness to deny the role that they play in their own life gives up choices they might make. It is like, in their mind, those choices don’t even exist. But it clearly doesn’t have to be this way, else why did Student A get the homework done?

From another perspective, who do you think is generally busier, my first year students or my third year students? Who do you think gets homework done more frequently, puts more preparation into tournaments, attends more tournaments,etc? The answer is that older students are both busier and accomplish more. But they also tend to be more responsible for their choices. In learning to take responsibility for themselves, they learn to take ownership over a greater portion of the choices available to them. They learn to seek out the choices that they might make and use those choices to their advantage. Again, in the initial example offered in this essay, the moment I took responsibility is the moment that I began to seek out the choices available to me to change my situation. I began to own them and then use them to my advantage (for example, I did a better job pre-teaching students the importance of not no showing at tournaments, had more awkward conversations with students who no showed, increased the number of tournaments available so that students would be able to attend more tournaments, etc).

And it turns out that the benefits aren’t simply theoretical. They are real and measurable. On the MetaX educational outcomes data set, Self Efficacy is indicated as one of the student attributes most likely to result in positive educational outcomes. Self efficacy is essentially a student’s belief that their choices and actions have the ability to result in academic growth. In other words, students who believe that their own efforts are likely to produce positive academic results are much more likely to achieve positive academic results than students who don’t hold that belief. This is the essence of a student taking responsibility. It is to hold to the realistic belief that it is primarily their choices that lead to their outcomes, and forgo the unreasonable (albeit convenient) belief that, outside of extraordinary circumstances, academic failures can primarily be explained as the result of other people’s choices, bad luck, mystical and unexplainable forces, etc.

If you follow the link above, you can see that the importance of self efficacy is among the most well studied issues in the field of education. The MetaX dataset on self efficacy references 617 different studies encompassing over a million students around the world. To get more specific on the idea, I’ll point to one particular study, which demonstrates that increased student beliefs of self efficacy give rise to increased student use of metacognitive learning strategies. Metacognitive learning strategies are introspective mental practices that help students to incorporate difficult concepts (more full explanation here). It involves tasks like mentally dividing the portions that the student understands and doesn’t understand, asking oneself if any previous knowledge or experience may be applicable, creating a diagram to map out what one currently understands in the concept, verbalizing thoughts to work through fuzzy concepts, creating a study plan to break the subject into manageable portions, etc. Can you see the application here? Taking responsibility actually allows you to own more of your education by revealing choices that you didn’t know you had. It really isn’t until the student feels that it is their responsibility and capability to learn that the student begins to explore self regulated strategies like those mentioned above. In other words, the student believes that they are both responsible to and capable of producing positive academic results, and this in turn causes them to seek out learning options that otherwise might have been ignored.

I hope the educational benefits of taking responsibility are, at this point, quite clear. But not yet discussed is the downside. And there is a downside. There has to be a downside or else students would always take responsibility. What I’ve said up to this point isn’t rocket science. I’ve cited studies, but they are the sort of studies that tell us what is already really apparent.

Me: “Students who don’t make excuses and live in reality are more successful.”

Everyone Else: “No duh, Sherlock!”

So why is it so easy to see when others refuse to take responsibility, but often difficult for students (and even adults) to see that they are engaging in the same behavior?

I believe that the answer is that for many people, responsibility represents a sincere threat. This threat is based on two major misconceptions. First, it is my observation that, for whatever reason, the human preset seems to be to identify ourselves with the outcomes that we achieve. To believe that our success as a human is defined very simply by adding up our triumphs and subtracting our failures. It’s a brutal (and unreasonable) sort of math that can turn even minor moments of responsibility into serious threats. It turns them into threats because it means that saying, “You caused this,” is the exact same statement as “You are this.” Students didn’t just fail to do their homework, they are failures for not doing their homework. Students didn’t just get 76% on the test, they are a 76% kind of human. And the student didn’t just fail to grasp the concept, they are the type of human who fails to grasp concepts. In this environment, it becomes a psychological imperative to detach oneself from one's results.

Unfortunately, it is intellectually very easy to detach oneself from one’s results by making excuses and blaming parents, teachers, tournament judges, circumstances, the alarm clock, etc. for outcomes. On the other hand, it is tremendously, intellectually difficult to develop an internal philosophy that defines the meaning of the human experience as something greater than the sum of all triumphs and failures. The result is that students take the easy path and divide themselves from their results by refusing to claim the results as belonging to them. As any parent knows, the result is that even minor moments of accountability can turn into full blown existential crises (and I’ve observed a few of those through the years in class as well).

So, now we get to the central question of the essay- given these forces at play, how can a teacher effectively establish a culture of responsibility in the classroom?

While I am sure that there are many strategies which might be employed to this end, I would like to identify three, moving from most frequently used to least frequently used, based upon my observations. 

1. Teach Responsibility

Quite simply, the teacher makes time within the curriculum to teach, discuss, and reinforce the concept of responsibility. In my debate class, this starts on day one as we discuss the rules of the class (Take Responsibility is rule number three). I present examples, develop a philosophy of responsibility, and forewarn them of the tendency to make excuses, etc. I also teach responsibility after each tournament as we discuss what I call “The 24 Hour Rule”, and try to reinforce the behavior whenever I see it exhibited. Different classes will do it differently, but I think that responsibility has a place to be taught in every classroom.

 
 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter April 2022

Welcome to our April Newsletter. A lot has happened in the past couple of months, so read below to find out what is going on!

In the Classroom

“It Didn’t Mean as Much as I Thought It Would.”

by Sam Martineau, WIDL Teacher

After each tournament I ask students to share what they learned. As we discussed the most recent tournament, a student who has put in some real work and effort over the last two years shared her experience getting her first ever first place medal. She said that she was surprised with the experience. She had been working so hard to get that medal thinking that things would change once she had achieved that goal and received that recognition, only to find that when she won first place she felt much the same. More importantly, she realized that she was still the same person. She liked herself just as much, and she was just as proud about this tournament as she had been with other tournaments where she had given her best.

This speaks to one of our core values in the WIDL. That success is best measured as a process, not an outcome. She didn't feel different after winning the first place medal, because in fact, she was not different. The real success wasn’t the medal she won, but the person she had been becoming through the entire experience. It is this perspective that allows students to take on challenges, persevere through difficulty, and not get discouraged with the sort of failures that fuel growth.

 

Highlights from February and March


Independent Education Program Announcement

In case you missed it, the WIDL is pleased to announce the creation of the Independent Education Program and the onboarding of several new classes outside the WIDL that will be part of our offerings next year. Click here for more information!


February Tournament at Canyon Grove and March Tournament Online

Congratulations to everyone who competed in our past two tournaments in February and March! Thank you to our volunteer judges. Thank you to Canyon Grove Academy for being our hosts. Thank you to everyone involved. There were approximately 225 students competing in each of the tournaments. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.

 

News From the Civic Advocacy Group

We want to give a big congratulations to the Civic Advocacy Group who presented at the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 22, 2022. They’ve had a big impact this year at the State Capitol as well as at the CSW. Way to go students!

 

Mock Trial Season

We want to give a big round of applause to a number of our students who competed in the Utah State Mock Trial Competition this year. Teams composed of WIDL students accomplished the following:

  • Integritas A- High School State Champions

  • Integritas B- High School Semifinalists

  • Salt Lake Valley Homeschool- High School Quarter Finalists

  • Integritas Junior High- Jr. High Semifinalists

The Integritas A team will be competing in that National Mock Trial Tournament this coming May! Good luck!


WIDL YouTube Oratories

The Student Council has started up another project this year, inviting top competitors in our tournaments from the past year to video themselves giving their oratories to be put up on the league YouTube channel. Take a look at the channel to see some of the great speeches that have been uploaded so far!
 

Looking Forward

Spring Championship Tournament

On April 30th, the WIDL will host our final tournament of the year and championship at BYU. At this tournament, students will compete in elimination rounds until we get ourselves down to a final room in each event. We’re so excited to see how it shakes out. We’ll also be handing out awards for accomplishments over the course of our year and doing senior recognition for the league. It’s the event of the year for the WIDL and we hope you will come and participate whether you are in the league or are just interested in seeing what we are all about.

Further information about the tournament can be found at the tournament page. On the day of the tournament, that page will have links you can use to view the awards ceremony if you want to participate online.

 

If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away! We would love to see you judge, compete, or just come observed. Please come get involved!

Students Competing in Model United Nations

We’re looking forward to seeing our students compete at the Utah High School Model United Nations State Competition at the University of Utah on April 19th. The following partnerships will represent the following nations.

Vietnam

  • Mia Carter and Simon Kisby

  • Sariah Schramm and Zachary Grant

  • Abraham Olenslager and Max Madsen

  • Avery Prout and Zak Shelley

  • Rachel Stoddard and Esther Stoddard

  • Peter Hyde and Alexander Henage

Ukraine

  • Ben Ferguson and Daniel Boyd

  • Ammon Teasdale and Ben Nielson

  • Elijah Williams and Jaron Funk

  • Spencer Christensen and Ellyn Olenslager

  • Ryan Hyde and Bronson Bishop

Turkey

  • Steve Preston and Caleb McKenzie

  • Shaun Salmond and Eliza Funk

  • Laird Paskett and Devin Whetten

  • Emma Rollins and Evy Burns

  • Emma Barnes and Tessa Carter

Brazil

  • Conner Darling and Shaylie Jesse

  • Griffin Liechty and Porter Jensen

Best of luck to all of our students!

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have and increased our student body. We plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

 

Insights in Education

Freedom in Education is Good, Chaos is Not

by Samuel Martineau

General Director of the WIDL

I love teaching in the homeschooling community so much, because there is just so much to love. The students, the parents, teaching in weird places..... During my time in the homeschool community I’ve taught in two different barns (finished thankfully), two old industrial buildings, outside... a lot, a smelly old church, several not smelly churches, a hotel conference room, a grocery store staff room, a restaurant, on a patio, and generally wherever the students were. It’s been weird sometimes. But I’ve been teaching what I want to teach in the way I want to teach it to students I want to teach. So what more could you want?

This gets to what I love so much about teaching in the homeschooling community. Outside of my students themselves, the thing I like best about teaching in the homeschooling community is freedom. The freedom to teach the things that I believe to be valuable and that I am passionate about, using methods that I believe work. Just as much, it is the freedom to not spend time on issues that I don’t perceive as central to student success.

I imagine that parents homeschool their students for pretty much the same reason: freedom. Freedom to craft a curriculum that meets the specific needs of a child, freedom to pace a curriculum appropriately for a given child, freedom to seek a peer group that can be accepting of a child’s differences, freedom to give lots of individual attention, freedom to focus on values that are important to a given family, etc. And it turns out that this freedom works. Or at the least, this freedom has forms which work. But it turns out that it also has forms that don’t work out as well. And in that dichotomy there is a parallel lesson for teaching generally, but specifically in the homeschooling community. So into the data-

Reliable data on homeschooling can be difficult to find for a variety of reasons . But the data that is available is generally very favorable for homeschooling as a means of educating children and preparing them for success in life (in other words, freedom really seems to work). For example in this article from The Conversation and this article from Education And Behavior you can find an overview of available data on academic and social outcomes in the homeschooling community. Both of these articles indicate that available evidence suggests that homeschooled students tend to outperform their peers on a variety of academic measures. At least that is true for students engaged in “structured” homeschooling. But it turns out that both articles indicate that “unstructured” homeschooling tends to produce outcomes on average worse than other educational settings. This suggests to me an interesting dichotomy with important lessons for teaching, and specifically teaching in the homeschooling community. That dichotomy is that while freedom is really great for a child’s education, chaos is not.

To help you conceptualize this dichotomy, consider an interesting conversation I recently had with a former student. I’ll note that I share with her permission. This former student said that math doesn’t come easily to her (I know that many can relate), and that she spent her teen years hopping around from math program to math program. In every case things would be ok when the math was relatively simple. Eventually though, things always got to a point she had trouble understanding. At that point the math program was presumed defective, and then she went on to the next program to find the one that would “work for her”. It turned out that none of them did. Eventually, in an attempt to inspire her into loving math enough to succeed in math, her math program retreated into a sort of philosophical examination of Euclid and the beauty that is math. Unfortunately, this philosophical examination of math had little to do with her ability to actually complete mathematical operations. Finally, she left her high school years less competent in math than she would have liked. However, she went to college, took remedial math courses, then college level math courses, did well in those courses, and discovered something valuable: in her case (as is the case with many students) there was no version of learning math that didn’t involve a lot of sitting down and muddling through concepts she didn’t understand, trying, failing, getting feedback, slowly building up her knowledge and skill base, and building one small victory on top of another. And this brings us to the dichotomy between freedom and chaos: it turns out that what looked like freedom at the time (the freedom to hop from math program to math program to find the “right fit”) was not experienced by the students as freedom. It was experienced by the student as chaos. In other words, the experience was so segmented, disrupted, on again off again, and chaotic that she was never able to have that critical experience of sitting down, muddling through difficult concepts, building small victories on top of each other, etc. It was only when she was able to get into an environment of consistency and stability that she was able to really grow in math.

 

I don’t think that conclusion is very surprising. In public schools, one of the biggest killers of academic achievement is chronic absenteeism (read here “chaos”). In the words of a report on chronic absenteeism from the University of Delaware “Chronically absent students are not only missing out on school days and opportunities to learn, but they are at the greatest risk of falling behind. Chronic absenteeism has been linked to reduced student achievement, social disengagement, and feelings of alienation.” (click here for the article quoted and a strong analysis of chronic absenteeism). Again, not surprising. Of course chronic absenteeism is terrible for a child’s education! They don’t get to form connections to other students, they miss important lessons, they forget what they learned, get caught up just in time to forget again, and become discouraged and disconnected from their education experience. It’s what the data says and I’ve also observed that it is what chronic absenteeism looks like for students in my classroom. As a note, I also think that it is worth it to consider what “chronic absenteeism” translates into when it comes to homeschooling more broadly. It may make some sense of the concept that “unstructured” homeschooling tends to produce poorer than average academic outcomes.

In other words, freedom is great because it opens so many possibilities. But one of those possibilities is chaos and chaos is less great.

 

Which presents a great lesson for homeschool teachers. When you teach in the homeschooling community, you can do so much, the options are literally endless! No accrediting organization dictating your curriculum, no administration enforcing federal programs to secure funding. You have freedom to teach the things that you believe will really have an impact. But that also means that one of the options is chaos. So, for teachers in the homeschooling community, I would like to suggest five questions that can help you think about the extent to which students in your classroom may be experiencing freedom as

chaos.

 

Does your course have specific objectives, a scope, and a sequence? It is important that teachers clearly understand what they are trying to achieve with students, what it looks like when students achieve those goals, and what it looks like when they don’t. Do you understand how all of the instruction days fit into those overall goals? Is there a purposeful order to the objectives you will pursue and does that order build upon itself toward larger objectives? If your curriculum is more flexible than that, is there a rationale and structure to what you will do when? The point here is that if you aren’t well thought out from the first day of teaching, then your class will trend chaotic and students will feel confused about the purpose of the class and disconnected from its meaning.

 

Do students have a way to know if they are accomplishing the objectives of your class and means of achieving feedback and support if they are falling short? A class can seem particularly chaotic for a student if there is not a way for the student to know if they are meeting expectations and accomplishing desired objectives when it feels like they’re just doing stuff. So what feedback are students getting on how well they are accomplishing the goals of the class? Grading assignments is a fine way to do this, but the great thing about homeschooling is that you have so much freedom. You can structure this feedback however you want in the way that seems to you the most meaningful.

 

How well planned are your lessons? If you find yourself shooting from the hip frequently, then your classroom will trend chaotic. It takes real effort, thought, and foresight to think through how a lesson will develop, how much time should be dedicated to each activity. But doing so ensures that the class isn’t haphazard, jumping from activity to activity because the teacher is just feeling his or her way through the lesson or because the teacher is constantly running out of time for activities.

 

Do you spend enough time on objectives to see real improvement? Even if you have a very well planned out classroom, if you try to stuff too much into your curriculum, you will be jumping from topic to topic before students get any real momentum or growth. Slow it down. Decide the things that are really worth investing class and homework time in. Then let students practice practice practice practice until they have had an opportunity to make real progress. Remember, education is essentially asking students to do what they can’t do yet. So real education involves a lot of sitting down, muddling through concepts that aren’t well understood, trying, failing, getting feedback, trying again, and building small victories on top of each other. If there isn’t enough time in your classroom for students to go through that process, then (like my former

student above) they are likely experiencing freedom as chaos.

 

What do you do in your classroom? If you are doing well in the previous questions, then there should be a solid answer to this question. Here is a good way to think about this question, if someone were to ask a student in your class what they do in the class, the student shouldn’t have to think very hard to have an answer. There should be enough activities that you do with enough consistency that the student can clearly identify what they do in class. In my class, I hope that I have been consistent enough that students could say things like, “We do discussions each week where the teacher gives us a scenario and we have to make decisions about what is right and wrong and then debate about it.” “We choose what we want to do at tournaments and then we prepare, practice, and compete.” “After tournaments we talk about what we learned and our teacher explains good ways to view our tournament experience.” “We learn about different types of speaking and debating, we prepare at home, and then we practice them in class.” My hope is that my students would be able to answer that question clearly because we do those things over and over and over establishing an environment of stability in which students can thrive.

 

I hope that if you teach in the homeschooling community, that you will consider those five questions. If you have answers that you believe in to those questions, then I think it is likely that your classroom is the sort of consistent place where students can thrive. If you don’t, then I would urge you to consider how you want to answer those questions. Because here are two things worth knowing about education.

  1. Freedom is good for an education and chaos is not.

  2. Teaching is a skill. So if your classroom is more chaotic than is good, then you can make it better by growing your skills and changing your teaching behavior.

 
 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT - March 2022

From Sam Martineau, Director of the Wasatch Independent Debate League

 

Hello Everyone,

 

After months, and even years, of work and planning I’m pleased to make a big, and what I hope you will find an exciting, announcement.

That announcement is the creation of the Independent Education Program!

 

Read on for a brief overview of the announcement, or click here to watch a full video explanation.

The Independent Education Program will make homeschooling for teenagers more feasible by providing a greater variety of homeschool curriculum options that are

  • At the secondary level

  • High quality and academically rigorous

  • Reliably available year over year

  • A la carte

We believe that a lack of these sorts of options is the number one issue that makes homeschooling a teenager (especially older teenagers) difficult. Therefore that is exactly what we intend to offer starting next school year and in years to come.

That being said, I am pleased to make two further announcements

 

  1. In the coming year we will be adding three new programs in the IEP in addition to the Wasatch Independent Debate League. We want to search out the level of interest that homeschooling parents have in getting these programs established in their areas so that we can provide classes in those areas.

  2. We are also looking to hire and train new staff to fill needed positions as we expand our offerings.

Read on for details!

First, New Programs in the IEP

Math and Science

Director- Gesse Rosa

I absolutely love education and teaching. My greatest payment is to catalyze a student transition from “I don’t know math” or “I am not good at math” or “I don’t know chemistry” to “I love math” or “I understand it.”

-Gesse Rosa

The IEP is pleased to offer a Math and Science program headed by Gesse Rosa. Gesse has degrees from BYU and the University of Utah in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Physics and has been teaching math and science for six years at both the university and secondary level.

 

Math Classes offered next year will be-

  • Fundamentals of Math

  • Pre Algebra

  • Algebra 1

  • Algebra 2

Science classes offered next year will be

  • Chemistry Fundamentals

  • Chemistry 1

Classes will have an approach that focuses on

  • Instilling in students a love for math and science and a belief that they are capable of succeeding in those subjects

  • Individual attention to student needs

  • Focus on core issues in math and science

  • Fully preparing students for the ACT and for college level math and science

To see a full description of each class, click here to go to the Independent Education Association Website.

Or click here to get a class in your area!
 

Startup Club Business and Entrepreneurship Program

Director- Travis Lish

The IEP is also pleased to offer our Business and Entrepreneurship Program called The Startup Club directed by Travis Lish.

Travis has a B.S. in Organizational Psychology from BYU Idaho and a Masters of Public Administration degree from BYU. He has been teaching teens to start their own businesses for five years and is the founder of The Startup Club.

 

The Startup Club is the ultimate introduction to business and entrepreneurship because it gives students the opportunity and tools to start, operate, and sell a business. The club focuses on students learning theoretical and practical foundations of business and entrepreneurship and actively use that knowledge to structure a business, secure funding, pitch their product in shark tank style competitions, and sell their product.

For a more full description, click here to go to the Independent Education Association Website.

Or click here if you want to get a Startup Club in your area!


 

Constitution and Moot Court

Finally, I am pleased to announce that the IEP has created a constitution and moot court class! This class will have a the following primary goal and primary method.

Primary Goal- Students come to understand the general theory, specific provisions, and practical impact of the United States Constitution.

Primary Method- Students will learn the U.S. Constitution by practicing in class and competing out of class in moot court. Moot court is a simulation of the U.S. Supreme Court and students will have the opportunity to act as attorneys and justices in the court. This will help students to understand the system by which our constitution is interpreted and applied to society and will require them to think critically about the provisions and possible interpretations of the constitution.

In addition to constitutional understanding, students will also gain confidence in their critical thinking, argument, and presentation skills.

The class will be for students 13 and older. We are so excited to be able to offer this class. We hope that you are excited too.

For a more full description, click here to go to the Independent Education Association Website.

Or click here if you want to get a constitution and moot court class in your area!

Classes Interest Form

Second, We Are Hiring

As we expand our program, the Independent Education Program is looking for people to fill the following positions

  • Teachers for the Wasatch Independent Debate League

  • Teachers for the Start Up Academy

  • Teachers for the constitution and moot court class

  • Administrators for our all of our new programs


All of these positions are well compensated and flexible. A comprehensive curriculum as well as training and ongoing support will be provided for teachers.

If you are interested, click this link to learn more and to apply!

 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter February 2022

Welcome to the sixth edition of the newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We’re have some exciting things going on in and out of the classroom. Read on to hear from our teachers, hear the news, and see how you can get involved!

In the Classroom

I Was REALLY NERVOUS to Speak in Front of People

by McKay Earl, WIDL Teacher

Public speaking is more feared than death. Yikes! Is it really that bad to talk to human beings when assembled in a group? No, what we are really afraid of is saying something stupid, which could cause us to be shunned, abandoned, unfriended, which would naturally lead to a pathetic life full of misery and woe. Right? Well, maybe not that extreme, but the fear of messing up and having instant accountability is so daunting that many in our society run from not only the great opportunities that public speaking can bring, but they also miss out on the impact that their thoughts and ideas can have on someone else.

Overcoming this fear of public speaking in the lives of my students has been so rewarding. For the first class of the semester, I led my students in an activity where we took turns picking our favorite animal and then as a group we each made the sound of that animal together — in as loud a voice as we could. I teach an online class, so the goal was to yell so loud it could be heard throughout each of our houses. And guess what, an amazing thing happened - no one died, no one suffered emotional trauma, and no one was shunned, no matter how goofy our gorilla sounds were. I promised them that just like shouting the sounds of the animal kingdom didn’t ruin their lives, putting themselves out there with giving speeches wouldn’t either. We then launched into weekly exercises of 2 minute prep time to give five minute speeches, over and over. Nerve racking at first, but after only a few weeks it was amazing to see the progress. Almost every one of my students remarked about their greatest hurdle before the semester started was the “fear of embarrassing themselves,” or of being “REALLY NERVOUS to speak in front of people,” but through practice and not worrying about messing up, they not only became really good at it, they actually had fun!

With public speaking no longer being the greatest fear, but a well honed skill, just think of the great opportunities it can bring and the great impact it can have on others.

 

Highlights from January (lots of excitement in the past month!)

January Online Tournament

Congratulations to everyone who competed in our tournament on January 29. Thank you to the judges who volunteered as well. There were approximately 250 students competing. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.

News From the Civic Advocacy Group

The WIDL Civic Advocacy group led by our Director of Civic Advocacy, Kaelin Hirschi, and supported by alumni Zach Young and Brigham Brown, has spent the last few weeks working with legislators at the Utah State Capitol during the 2022 legislative session. Considerable time has been devoted to lobbying for legislation selected by the students including legislation focused on gendered participation in sports, juvenile detention structure, vaccine mandates, and funds for non-traditional education. Students have been able to engage in several notable ways including attending committee meetings for important legislation. Dalton Brown was able to speak in favor of HB 331 regarding the Hope Scholarship in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. Abe Olenslager organized a rally on the steps of the Capitol building for HB 60 on vaccine mandates to generate support to reach Governor Cox about an issue important to him. We are excited for the opportunities the last week of the session will bring!
 

WIDL Wall Talk

There are two more episodes of the Student Council led podcast “WIDL Wall Talk” which you can find here. In the episodes, students discuss current events such as the Supreme Court ruling on the national workplace vaccine mandate, Russia and Ukraine, and a roundup of top news stories from 2021.

WIDL YouTube Oratories

The Student Council has started up another project this year, inviting top competitors in our tournaments from the past year to video themselves giving their oratories to be put up on the league YouTube channel. Take a look at the channel to see some of the great speeches that have been uploaded so far!

 

Looking Forward

February Tournament at Canyon Grove Academy

This Saturday, February 26, we’ll have our next tournament at Canyon Grove Academy. Canyon Grove Academy and their Executive Director Kim Goates have been a tremendous partner of the WIDL for years and we are very grateful to them. 

 

Further information about the tournament can be found at the tournament page. On the day of the tournament, that page will have links you can use to access the tournament and to view the awards ceremony if you want to participate online. 

We would love to have you come and observe either in person or online if you are interested in the WIDL.

If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away! We would love to see you judge, compete, or just come observe. Please come get involved!

March Online Tournament

We're also starting to plan for the March Online Tournament on March 26.  All events will be online.  We'd love to have you participate or judge at that tournament.  Tournament information can be found here.

Our Civic Advocacy Students Will Be Speaking At the U.N. Commision on the Status of Women

Congratulations to our students in the Civic Advocacy Program. They applied to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women to present as a “parallel event” for the conference this March and they were accepted! They will be presenting on the following issues on the following dates

  • The Individual's Role in the Fight Against Human Trafficking- March 22 at 4:00pm

  • A Woman's Right to Education- March 22 at 6:00pm

The event is online this year, so we’ll make sure everyone has the information necessary to view the presentations.
 

Humanitarian Trip to Guatemala

We have had five slots open up on our humanitarian trip to Guatemala this coming July as participants have dropped out. We would love to have you join us if you are interested. Information for the trip is below-

  • Date: July 9-16

  • Location: Panajachel, Guatemala

  • Working With: Cultiva International

  • Focusing On: Education on issues of poverty and culture, Working to improve food security in the Panajachel Region

  • Cost ~$,2000

    • Payment for Cultiva- $1300

    • Payment for WIDL costs- $100

    • Airfare- Approximately $500-$600

  • Immunity- Guatemala is currently requiring proof of vaccination for Covid-19 to enter the country. While we think it likely that this will have changed by July, we cannot make any guarantee.

 

Cultiva International is an organization with a track record of effecting concrete change and doing humanitarian work in responsible and respectful ways. If you are interested in joining us, please email Lucy Medina at lucy06medina@gmail.com. An initial payment of $1,000 would be required and we will be purchasing non refundable tickets on March 4th. 

 

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have and increased our student body. We plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

Insights in Education

The Most Important Thing You Can Do for a Student

by Samuel Martineau, General Director of the WIDL

As an educator, the most important thing you will ever do for a student has very little to do with teaching. It has to do with saving that student’s life. It’s not about classroom methods, it’s about being there in the right moment to play a part in preventing a suicide.

 

Suicide can be a difficult subject to discuss. Many have lost someone to suicide. They deserve our compassion. Others fear that they will lose someone to suicide. It is not unreasonable to feel this fear. For some, the subject is couched in shame. This shame can be a powerful motivator to ignore the subject. And the subject is pleasant for no one. But if you are involved with youth at all, I encourage you to be willing to seriously and candidly consider the subject. One of the most profound concepts I've come across regarding our willingness to discuss difficult issues came from Kaelin Hirschi (our Director of Civic Advocacy) in the form of a line from her speech at one of our alumni tournaments- “Silence is stigma.” And suicide among our youth is not a subject we can afford to stigmatize by our silence.

 

According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for the U.S. population as a whole, but is the third leading cause of death for the age group 10-14, and the second leading cause of death for age groups 15-24 and 25-34. In addition, the most recent state level data from the CDC demonstrates that Utah and Arizona (two areas of particular concern for the WIDL), have the 6th and 13th highest age adjusted suicide rates in the United States. Data about suicide in the homeschooling community is scarce just as data about almost any element of the homeschooling community is scarce. But it has been my full time employment to teach in this community now for well over a decade and in that time I have taught a large number of students from different elements of the homeschooling community. You can believe me when I say that our community is not exempt from dealing with this difficult issue. Every single year I work with several students who confide that they are dealing with suicidal thoughts. And based upon disclosures that happen after the fact every year, I also work with a number of students who are dealing with suicidal thoughts who do not confide in me, and unfortunately, in many cases they do not confide in anyone.

And that is the point- in the ideal circumstances a student would have many people around them in whom they would feel comfortable confiding. But silence and shame are often so wrapped up in suicidal thoughts that suicidal students very often have a tough time sharing with anyone. This is why anyone who works with youth can have a critical role to play in preventing suicide.

I would like to devote the remainder of this article to concrete steps we can take as teachers to play that crucial role for the distressed student in the right moment.

Being a teacher in which a student can confide

Every class I teach, I take the first ten minutes or so to ask students about what happened during the week, to joke with them about what they say, to tell them the interesting things going on in my life, and to generally chat with my students. I know that some students wonder at the value of the practice or maybe think it's a waste of time, but it serves a couple of meaningful purposes. First, I just had to accept at some point that I could teach in the homeschooling community, and I could have students in my class on time, but I wasn’t going to get both. So I figured that I might as well use the first ten minutes meaningfully.

The second is the more important issue. I want to know about my students. I want to know their interests, I want to understand their family dynamics, I want to know what they want to talk about, I want to know how they see life, and, just as importantly, I want them to know that I want to know these things. Perhaps it may seem that ten minutes a week isn’t much time to get to know kids, and maybe it isn’t. But I generally see it as ten of the most productive minutes I spend in any class. As students get more and more comfortable they tell me about the death of loved ones, fights with friends, medical troubles, all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect in a casual chat. More importantly, the temperature in the room changes when students come to believe that you are interested in their lives.

I also have students write a semester reflection at the end of each semester. I invite them to tell me what they have learned about the class and how they would grade themselves, but I also invite them to tell me what they have learned about themselves, the challenges they have had to overcome, and what things they want to change. In these papers, students have confided even more personal difficulties. Low self image, depression, anxiety, abuse, loneliness. After tournaments, I ask students to tell me what they learned and try to leave it open ended. They mostly tell me that they found out that they need to speak more confidently, but sometimes they tell me that they discovered that they had been holding back because they were scared of what it might mean if they actually tried and then lost. When I’m concerned about a student, I try to find moments to ask them how they are doing. And sometimes they tell me that they are fine, but sometimes they tell me that they feel like they can’t talk to their mom or that they feel like they don’t have any friends.

All of these, and other strategies work for me. And maybe they do or would work for you too. But it doesn’t really matter if you employ these or any particular strategy. What matters is how you answer these questions- Do your students know that you are interested in them beyond their academic achievement? If you teach english or history do your students know that you want more for them than to learn to write or to analyze the past? Do they know that you want them to learn to be whole and happy? Because if they do, when the moment comes that they need to confide in someone and they can’t think of anyone else, chances are that that someone will be you. And, when it comes down to it, it seems to me that this is at the core of teaching. Teaching isn’t just a thing that you do. It’s a way that you are. It’s a way that you see the world. More importantly, it’s the way that you see people.

 

Speaking of the way that we see people, whether or not you see students, or certain segments of students, with contempt matters. It matters a lot. I’ll put this plainly. LGBTQ youth ideate, plan, and attempt suicide approximately four times more than average youth. My personal experience confirms for me that LGBTQ youth are more at risk as well. My personal experience also indicates to me that these youth are often among those who would have the hardest time talking to a parent about their distress and could really use a teacher to help bridge that gap. And if you teach any sizable number of students for any significant amount of time, then the fact is that you teach LGBTQ youth.

 

So, as a teacher, we have choices. We can use words like “gay”, “dike”, or “fag” as an insult, we can joke about boys being effeminate, and we can act disgusted or outraged at the mention of transgender people. We can also choose to be the sort of teacher that at risk youth are willing to confide in. But we don’t get to choose both. Students watch you. They pay attention. Will they believe that you think they are a disgusting joke or that you think they are humans with as much inherent value as anyone?

 

And here I’ll note that I’m not talking about moral or religious judgments about life choices or lifestyles. I’m just talking about being humane, recognizing that all of our students need good teachers, and wanting to see all of our students stay alive.

 

I’ll also note that similar principles apply to a variety of issues. Making an earnest attempt to take a humane attitude toward all people regardless of how much you may disagree with them on any political issue, what their religious position is, or any other differences there may be between them and you is what makes people worth confiding in. People confide in people who are humane, compassionate, and loving.

 

In the moment

I expect that most readers will find the section above intuitive (teachers teach for a reason), but it can be more difficult to know what to do when you have reason to suspect that a student is feeling suicidal. On several occasions I have been lucky enough to receive a training called QPR. The training outlines three simple steps to take in that circumstance. I’ll dedicate the remainder of the article to those steps, but I also encourage anyone who has the opportunity to be formally trained in QPR to please take the opportunity.

 

Question

Let’s imagine that you encounter these or like circumstances-

  • A student manifests a sudden change in personality

  • A student seems to consistently struggle to function

  • Student performance suddenly and drastically drops off

  • A student confides that he or she is struggling with his or her mental health

  • A student jokes about suicide

  • A student engages in any other behavior that makes you wonder if the student is safe

  • A more in depth discussion of indicators can be found here.

If this is the case, then it is time to start directly asking the student what is going on. Asking a student if he or she is feeling suicidal can be uncomfortable. It can feel like you are imposing on the student, that you are assuming too much, or that you are even doing something dangerous. The reality is that you are doing something normal and beneficial for the student. Asking about suicidal tendencies does not increase the chances that a person will commit suicide. In fact “acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce, rather than increase suicidal ideation, and may lead to improvements in mental health in treatment-seeking populations.” (quote from the link above). If you are wrong and a student is not experiencing suicidal thoughts, then you can let them know that you are pleased to hear it, that you asked because you care about them, and then you can go on your way knowing that you have reduced the stigma of the issue by refusing to shroud it in silence. And if you aren’t the person that a student is willing to confide in, then in all likelihood they will lie to you and go on their way.

 

The actual phrasing of such a sensitive question can be difficult. Personally, I find it easier to ask easier questions first, and then more difficult questions later as necessary. For example-

  • Based on what you’ve said/what I’ve noticed I am wondering if you find yourself feeling depressed or just sad?

  • Has it ever gotten bad enough that you have had thoughts about harming yourself?

  • Have the thoughts of self harm ever gotten to the point that you have thought about taking your own life?

  • Have you gotten to the point that you have actually envisioned taking your own life?

  • Have you ended up making a plan to end your life?

  • Have you gathered materials or made arrangements that would enable you to carry out that plan?

  • Have you made any attempts to carry out such a plan?

 

In the case of youth it is also important to ask “How much do your parents know about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking?”

 

Yes, these can be hard questions to ask. But, your willingness to endure a few minutes of discomfort can be what uncovers the pain that someone is facing and gets them the help that they need to stay alive.

Persuade

Should a student confide that he or she is experiencing suicidal thoughts the first thing to do is to express empathy and care for the student, and then the next action to take is to persuade. Specifically to persuade the student of three things.

  1. That their situation is not hopeless because there are concrete (if not easy) measures that can be taken to help them deal with the pain they experience.

  2. Those measures begin with involving the adults in their life (particularly parents) as a support system.

  3. That they should seek out competent professional counseling because it can and does positively impact the lives of people dealing with suicidal tendencies.

 

In my experience, students who haven’t already talked to parents are usually resistant to the idea that their parents should know that they are having suicidal thoughts. They often claim that their parents are too busy, that they don’t want to worry them, that it would just be a burden, or that their parents won’t believe them. It is important to emphasize to these students that parents have an obligation to take care of their children and to take their problems seriously, and that children do not have an obligation to take care of their parents. Also that their parents are the only people in their lives who are close enough and have enough power to keep them safe in critical moments and have the resources to secure for them professional medical treatments (meaning that telling trusted friends or other adults may be a good idea, but just isn’t enough.). It is important to reassure students that their parents would want to know what they are going through.

It is also critical that you inform the student’s parents of your conversation. Some would be concerned that this would be a breach of trust, but there are secrets worth keeping and secrets not worth keeping, and this is a secret not worth keeping. Besides, it isn’t a breach of trust if you have not promised not to tell parents, which you should not do anyway. Parents deserve to know and children need their parents’ help.

 

And a quick note for any students who are reading this, the same is true for you. A friend contemplating ending their life is not a secret worth keeping. Keeping that to yourself is the opposite of being a good friend.

 

Moving on, persuading students and parents that professional counseling can offer them hope is a particularly good idea because it is true! Not every counselor is right for every person, and counseling isn’t magic that will make everything better immediately, but study after study after study concludes that therapy has significant, measurable, life improving effects (just as a sample, this APA resolution cites over fifty peer reviewed studies quantifying the beneficial effects of therapy). On a personal level, I am happy to report that therapy has had a major positive impact on my life and has personally helped me deal with suicidal thoughts. The same is true for my wife (I share this with permission) and for a number of other people close to me.

 

Students are often resistant to the idea that they should seek out professional counseling because of the silence and stigma around counseling. They aren’t that type of person. They’re not broken or defective. Things aren’t that bad (imagine the irony of someone contemplating ending their life telling you that things aren’t really so bad that they need help). But there is nothing broken or defective about needing professional help. People don’t need therapy because of a moral defect any more than people need medical care because of a moral defect. For some reason our society has an undercurrent of belief that if people were morally or spiritually whole, then they wouldn’t be depressed, have anxiety, struggle with mental health, or experience suicidal thoughts. So the best option is to not admit (even to themselves) that they have problems so no one can know (even themselves) that they are morally or spiritually defective.

 

I disagree entirely. I do not feel defective because I have been benefited by professional counseling. And I have never met the student who I respected less because they struggle with mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and other struggles with mental health are caused by complex biological and environment factors. “You’re just a bad person who has brought shame upon yourself and shame upon your family” is thankfully not one of them.

 

Refer

The final step in aiding a suicidal student is to refer the student and/or the student’s parents to specific resources that can offer help. If the student has progressed to the point that they have a plan on which they are ready to act, then that means doing whatever you have to deliver the student into the custody of their parents safely and informing the parents of the critical nature of the situation.

Otherwise, if parents and students are not sure where to start looking for help, the following resources can be helpful.

 

Conclusion

I’ve lost two students to suicide. I think about them and remind myself that I never want any student to whom I could offer aid to ever go without my help. That commitment has landed me in some awkward conversations, some difficult to navigate situations, and I must admit that I haven’t always played my part as a teacher perfectly. But walking away from the issue so that I don’t have to take those risks is not an alternative that I’m willing to accept. The children we have in our homeschooling community are beautiful. They all deserve to live. They deserve the help they need to live happy and productive lives. They deserve to have adults around them who are willing to talk candidly about suicide, to take the issue seriously, and to work to prevent it. I’m committed to being one of those adults. I offer a sincere invitation to be in that group as well. We must frankly face the fact that we may not be able to save every child. But I am certain that together we can make a difference for the children who need us.

 
 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter January 2022

Welcome to the fifth edition of the newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We’re well into the year and have some exciting things going on in and out of the classroom. Read on to hear from our teachers, hear the news, and see how you can get involved!

In the Classroom

I Got My Goal!

by Megan Lee, WIDL Teacher

I was noticing, specifically after tournaments, how often we talked about winning and losing. Something felt off. It was discouraging to some, and a little too significant to others. I did some research on success- the actual definition being "to reach an aim or goal." Failure is simply- not having success. Not aiming. Not reaching any goals.

We had a discussion in class about the emptiness of measuring success based only on an outcome. We discussed how often in life, we won't and don't receive the measurable success we are looking for.  And we wondered if maybe, the word success needs to be redefined. What if when we went to tournaments, we set personal goals, we aimed to achieve them, and we celebrated the success of reaching for something that is within our grasp to reach. It seemed like the class went well, but not much was said after and I wondered a little bit if the message had actually sunk in.

The next tournament a student came back to me. He had been having troubles interrupting people when they spoke and had made a personal goal to not interrupt during tournaments. His goal was to strengthen his communication and to be more courteous. He reached for it at the next tournament, and he achieved it. It was thrilling to see his excitement. It was thrilling to recognize that the success he is working for is far deeper than a win. It's learning how to communicate ideas in a respectful and courteous way. This is something he will use all his life. I watch him in class now and he continues to strive. Sometimes he still struggles with that personal goal, but I can see him working for it, continuing to achieve it. Continuing to have success. That's all I ask for as a teacher.

Highlights from November

U of U December Tournament 

The December tournament was hosted by the University of Utah. Thank you so much to the U of U Office of Engagement for their support! They gave a wonderful presentation to our students about the University of Utah and the pathways students can pursue into college. Thank you also to all the staff and judges who made the tournament possible. There were approximately 240 students competing, including a strong component of online students competing from around the country. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.
 

WIDL Christmas Food Drive

As we do each year, the WIDL conducted a Christmas food drive competition. The results were announced at the University of Utah Tournament. Overall our students collected 6,183 lbs. of food and $5,540 for local food banks. We think our students are amazing for taking time to benefit their fellow travelers and we are so proud of what they accomplished! The winning classes based on donations gathered per student in the class are as follows-

  • 1st Place- Saratoga Springs Intermediate

  • 2nd Place- Riverton Elite

  • 3rd Place- Kaysville Elite

Parent/Alumni Tournament and Dinner

On December 30th, parents and alumni met for our annual competition and dinner. It was basically the best party of the year! The two events available were Oratory and Spontaneous Lincoln Douglas. It was so good to see, compete with, and catch up with our wonderful alumni. We’re so proud of them.

 

We are also particularly proud of the parents who competed. They were brave and inspiring and got a chance to see what the tournament experience is like for their children. So, a big shoutout to our brave parents-

  • Tracie Hyde

  • Heather Jones

  • Melanie Valderrama

  • Esther May

  • Travis Grant

  • Roxanna Maurer

  • Bryan Darling

  • Lisa Jackson

  • Rachel Logsdon

  • Dan Henage

  • Richard Henage

  • Rick Henage

  • Matthew Henage

The tournament was planned by Joseph Holt, Jenna Southwick, and Zachary Young from the Executive Board. Our elite students were judges, Abe Olenslager from the Student Council ran the tab room, and overall it was a fantastic event. For those reading, we would love to see even more of you compete next year. You can see rankings for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.

 

WIDL Wall Talk

The Student Council is continuing this year with the “Wall Talk” podcast (named after the extemp students who practice their speeches by talking to the nearest available wall). You can get the first podcast of season 2 here. In the first episode you’ll hear Peter, Tess, and Abe discussing everything from Texas Senate Bill 8, Afghanistan, Vaccine Mandates, and more.

WIDL YouTube Oratories

The Student Council has started up another project this year, inviting top competitors in our tournaments from the past year to video themselves giving their oratories to be put up on the league YouTube channel. Take a look at the channel to see some of the great speeches that have been uploaded so far!

International Public Policy Forum Update

We want to give a big congratulations to our students Peter Hyde, Alexander Henage, Bronson Bishop, and Abe Olenslager for making it to the round of 32 for the International Public Policy Forum. This means that they are one of the top 32 teams in the nation for this competition and we are so proud of them!

Looking Forward

January Online Tournament

Our next tournament will take place on January 29th online. There will be a full slate of events in which to compete (whether you are a student in a league class or not).  Further information about the tournament can be found at the tournament page.

If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away!

We would love to see you judge, compete, or just come observed. Please come get involved!

 

Utah Valley University Model United Nations

Also on January 29th the WIDL will be represented by our team for UVU Model United Nations. We will be represented by-

Russia

  • Peter Hyde and Alexander Henage

  • Mia Carter and Emma Barnes

  • Zak Shelley and Avery Prout

  • Rachel Stoddard and Esther Stoddard

South Korea

  • Jaron Funk and Elijah Williams

  • Josh Kennedy and Jessalyn Bates

  • Ryan Hyde and Bronson Bishop

  • Ben Nielsen and Tessa Carter

Ukraine

  • Liesel May and Luke Ewell

  • Shaylie Jessee and Ellyn Olenslager

  • Shaun Salmond and Eliza Funk

  • Carson Young and Corbin Miller

Good luck to our team!

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have and increased our student body. We plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year. 

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

Insights in Education

Troubled Students

by Samuel Martineau, General Director of the WIDL

Some students will make you feel like a great teacher no matter what you do. Success lives inside them so fully, it seems to spill over to you as a teacher.

Some students reveal to you how good you are as a teacher. They’ll drink if you bring them to the water, but they’ll make you prove that you can do it.

 

And then it seems that some students will make you feel like a terrible teacher no matter what you do. They are troubled, and you are troubled as a result.

 

This is, I think, a simplistic way of describing students, but a good intellectual starting place for the article, and I imagine that every teacher has had some experience in these categories. Particularly category number three. It just seems there are students out there that are so difficult, or maybe even impossible, to educate that you inevitably end up feeling that you have failed. Some of these students are endlessly disruptive, others never complete homework, some express terribly low self image, others’ attendance is so poor that they can never get momentum, some regularly sabotage their own opportunities, others are disrespectful or tactless with their fellow students, and many are a combination of these and other troubled behaviors. And teaching these students can make any teacher feel like a failure. As I’ve taught in the homeschooling community and in other settings, I’ve been through this experience many times. I’ve struggled with my concept of myself as a teacher, I’ve imagined others doing it much better than me, and like anyone teaching in the long term, I’ve had to adapt to survive what can often be a discouraging profession.

I have some thoughts for teachers struggling with troubled students. And as much as I love research backed teaching practices, these are primarily based on my personal experiences as a teacher and a philosophy of teaching that I have found durable enough for teaching in the long term. I offer these thoughts to you. Hopefully they will give you some measure of assurance, direction, and perspective.

There Is Always A Lot You Don’t Know

When teaching troubled students, it is easy to see all of their actions and choices as direct reflections on your teaching style and skills. All you see is your interactions with the student, but just as you live an entire life separate from your students, your students live a life entirely separate from you. And that life can have serious impacts on their class related choices. How many of the troubled students you teach are dealing with serious anxiety, but are unwilling to address the issue with you, or maybe even with their parents? How about frequent arguments between parents and tension in their homes? Drug addiction? Navigating same sex attraction? Financial stress at home?

 

If you could get that student to open up, would you be surprised if they were experiencing a private and painful crisis of faith? Would you be surprised to find that they are living with undiagnosed PTSD? Would it make the pieces fit together better if you found out that they spent all of their surplus emotional energy reliving a particularly vicious bit of bullying they never told you (or maybe anyone) about? Would it change your perspective about what’s going on if you found out that your student feels deeply isolated and seriously depressed behind their disruptive and energetic exterior?

 

Not every student who experiences these and similar issues ends up channeling their pain into the classroom to their detriment. Some see school as a place they can exercise control and succeed. But could we really expect that of every student? Some students do not succeed because they are not in a personal position to succeed in the ways that we may hope. And we haven’t even discussed the accumulation of everyday sort of issues that can cause consternation for students. Nor have we considered the fact that students may be dealing with either undiagnosed or diagnosed but not disclosed neurological issues. Or non diagnosable neurological issues because the diagnosis for whatever your student is experiencing doesn’t yet exist.

 

The point here is that every student comes into class with a life’s worth of backstory in which you play a relatively small part. And troubled students always have a lot going on in that story that produces their behaviors in class. So hanging your success or value as a teacher on your ability to fix that seems disproportionate at least.

For Some Students Small Wins Are Big Wins

It seems fairly natural to me to envision what I want students to accomplish, what I want them to be able to do, and the sort of benefit I want them to derive from my class. It’s disappointing to see those things not happen. I’ve had to learn that not every student is going to achieve that, and I have to be willing to be happy for the things they do achieve, even if they seem small to me.

I remember a particular student. He attended class sporadically, was extremely quiet during class, and seemed confused about what was going on a lot of the time. He finally got a string of classes attended together, and I made sure to take time to get him oriented in some of the difficult activities and homework that we were doing. And he had a debate in which he made some arguments. Maybe not great arguments, but some arguments. By comparison to what many of his classmates were accomplishing, it was small. After the end of the school year I had the chance to talk to his mom. I was almost certain that she had seen the investment in my class as a waste. To my surprise she tearfully thanked me for how much my class had meant to her son and to her. Their family situation had created some instability, but apparently it had really mattered that he had a class to go to when he was able to attend. It mattered that he got to listen to intelligent conversation, and that he had to share his thoughts. It mattered that I had taken time to work on that one particular assignment with him and that he felt successful in the debate he had. These all seemed like such small accomplishments that I felt that I was failing him somehow. Apparently he did not feel the same and neither did his mother. So should I throw away in my mind the value they perceived in their experiences because it didn’t line up with my expectations? I think not.

This is not to say that we don’t try with troubled students. Of course we try. But we also must be willing to see wins as wins, even if they are the sort of things we would call a win for every student.

You Don’t Get To Choose

 

One of my biggest regrets as a teacher has to do with a difficult student. Some years ago I was running our championship tournament and I found out that one of my beginning students, though present at the tournament, had not shown up to any of his rounds. He had been a difficult student all year. Ever resistant to homework, ever resistant to accountability, ever resistant to any of the things that would lead to success in my class, consistently talking during class, constantly making it clear that he resented being in my class, I was so frustrated with him. And then he went and totally blew off the entire tournament. To put it frankly, I ripped him and I was not kind. He never showed up to class again and I haven’t seen him since. I reached out to apologize, but never heard back. Given the trust that I lost, I’m not surprised.

I’ve thought a lot about that interaction in the years since, and I’ve been able to draw a lot of meaning out of it. For example, I’ve pondered what I was so frustrated about, really? At the time, I would have said that it was because I cared about him. And that’s true. I did care about him. But I’ve come to recognize that it was more than that. It was also about control. I felt like the fact that I was his teacher, the fact that I could so clearly see where he was going wrong and hurting himself, and the fact that no amount of normal persuading would work, meant that I had the right to make him do the right thing.

But here is the thing, no matter how right we may be, neither I nor any other teacher has the right to coerce or manipulate a student into making good choices. Students are autonomous individuals and they have the right to make choices, even poor ones. And while students can and should face consequences for poor choices in our classrooms, that isn’t even within a mile of what was going on with that student that day. I wasn’t giving him consequences for poor behavior. I became angry because I wanted control.

 

Giving that control up can be very difficult for teachers. You want your students to succeed. You know how they can do it. But it ultimately makes life better for you as well as your students. You see, part of the difficulty of working with troubled students is the belief that if you were just a good enough teacher, they wouldn’t be troubled students. But this denies the basic free will of the student. I would suggest for teachers to stop taking the choices of their students on themselves as the ultimate measure of success in teaching. In the end, it’s too large a burden for any teacher to carry.

Focus On Environment Not Outcome

So if you don’t measure your success as a teacher by whether or not your students have succeeded, how do you measure it? I would suggest that you focus on building an environment that you believe will give your students the best possible opportunity to succeed. I would suggest that you work on continually refining that environment, incorporating new ideas and your personal growth as you go along. For troubled students, ask some questions. “Does my classroom provide enough opportunities for challenge and growth that students can make the choice to grow?” “Is my classroom organized enough that students clearly understand what they should be doing at any given point?” “Is my classroom structured such that floundering students clearly can see that they are floundering, or is this clear only to me?” “Do my students have the opportunity to be accountable for poor choices?” “Have I done what would be necessary for struggling students to know that I value them as a student and want to help them, even though they are struggling?” “Does the struggling student have access to the resources that would be necessary for them to make progress should they decide to make that effort?” “Have I invited my troubled students to consider what it is that troubles them, and have I made myself a resource for them in that process?” “Do I consistently teach, model, discuss, etc. the types of principles that would help troubled students make meaningful progress?” “Have I tried to understand my struggling students, to have and express empathy for them, and to exercise patience with them?” “Do my struggling students clearly understand that they are allowed to have their burdens, but are not allowed to take them out on their fellow students?”

 

The questions could go on, but hopefully you have the idea. Instead of taking on the burden of producing the perfect student, take on the challenge of working toward the best possible classroom. And then let the students make the choices they will make and experience the consequences they will experience. Don’t shame them for it, don’t squash them, and don’t blow up at them, instead let them know that you love them and want them to succeed.

Let Their Problems Be Their Problems

One of the benefits of recognizing that you don’t get to choose what students do and deciding to focus on environment instead of outcome is that you get to avoid one of the most common pitfalls of teaching troubled students. That pitfall is playing into a role that the troubled student would very much like you to play. That role is the owner of their problems. I’ve observed that students whose problems seem too much for them want to escape them by having the people around them become the owners of their problems.

 

Here is an example of this. Let’s say that you have a student who can be short tempered with other students. This student needs to know that his or her approach is inappropriate and needs to change. But wouldn’t it be so much nicer if you never had to have that conversation with the student? Maybe you could make sure his or her assigned topic for study isn’t too stressful, or perhaps you could always pair him or her with the most patient members of the class. Do you see how this would make the student’s problem your problem?

 

What about a student who is entirely capable of producing quality work, but chooses not to. There is probably nothing they would like more than for you to get a paper started for them. Their problem is no longer their problem! When talking to a student with a poor attitude, do you take guilt on yourself for things you know you haven’t done wrong so that the student will hopefully admit that they need to make changes too? Don’t make their problem your problem! Let them know what you observe, and ask them to tell you what is going on. You don’t have to be imperious about it, but you also shouldn’t be dishonest.

Letting students experience and own their own problems is an important part of their own growth, and it takes a burden off of you as the teacher. Trust me, teachers have enough problems on their plates without loading student problems on their plate as well.

 

Overall, It’s Not About You

 

There are more issues I could discuss, but this article has to have a limit so I’ll end by wrapping up all of the previous statements into a single point. Troubled students are difficult to work with, have always been difficult to work with, and are always going to be difficult to work with. But the more you feel that the situation is about you, the more difficult they are going to be to work with, and the more you feel that the situation is about them, the easier they are going to be to work with. It’s not about what counts as success in your life, it's about what counts as success in their life. You can’t need them to succeed so you can feel good about you. You have to want them to feel good about themselves so that they can succeed for themselves. Overall, making the situation as much about them as possible will lighten your load as a teacher and give you the space to exercise patience, firmness, and love and to be the sort of teacher that troubled students need.

 
 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter December 2021

Welcome to the fourth edition of the newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We’re will into the year and have some exciting things going on in and out of the classroom. Read on to hear from our teachers, hear the news, and see how you can get involved!

 

In the Classroom

"It's Just Always So Complicated"

by Amy Jones, WIDL Teacher

Each week in class, we have a discussion. The topics vary, but one thing remains constant, the situation we discuss is complex. Often a dire instance is described and students are asked to take a stand, explain their position, and counter questions from their peers.

A few weeks ago, one student who typically participates enthusiastically in class discussions said, "Oh no! Do we have to have a discussion today?" I was surprised and asked her why she was dreading it. She responded, "It's just always so complicated. I just want the right answer and then we don't have to discuss it." I thought, "Wow, wouldn't it be nice if we always knew the right answer to everything?" We then had a discussion about why we have discussions and why they can be hard and frustrating.

It's so great to be involved in WIDL and see the impact it has on students. They have a place to develop critical thinking and logic skills where they are pushed to do hard things.

Highlights from November

November Online Tournament 

We held our November tournament online. Jared worked his magic again, and it came off with nary a hitch in sight. Thank you to all the staff and judges who made the tournament possible. There were approximately 215 students competing, including a strong component of online students competing from around the country. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.

Looking Forward

University of Utah Tournament

Our next tournament will take place on December 11 at the University of Utah. There will be a full slate of events in which to compete (whether you are a student in a league class or not). Impromptu and Federal Congress will also be online, so you can participate, no matter where you are in the world.Further information about the tournament can be found at the tournament page.  If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away!
 

WIDL Annual Christmas Food Drive

Every year the WIDL sponsors our annual food drive to benefit food pantries in our local communities. It is an inter class competition to see which class can gather the most food or cash donations for a local food bank per student in the class. The competition will run this year from November 22-December 11. The top classes will be announced at the December 11 tournament at the University of Utah and the top class will be provided with a pizza party by the WIDL. Most importantly, every year students go a long way toward making sure that food banks have enough supplies to provide meet the needs in their communities. Last year WIDL students gathered over 44,000 lbs of food and over $12,000 in cash donations. We can’t wait to see what our students accomplish this year!
 

WIDL Parent/Alumni Tournament

We’re excited to announce that the Parent/Alumni Tournament and Dinner are coming up on Thursday, Dec 30th at the Seventh Day Adventist Church 255 S 700 E St, in Provo! There are two elements to the event. The tournament will run from 12-5pm, and dinner will be right after that from 5:30-7:30pm. You can register for either or both (you should definitely do both!)

The two events in the tournament are Oratory and Spontaneous Lincoln Douglas. Oratory will run as usual, but Lincoln Douglas will have times cut in half and the topic will be announced the day of the tournament. This means that if you’ve been wanting to compete with your old speech and debate compatriots or give what your students are doing a try, but you’re not sure you can foot the time commitment of preparing for a full Lincoln Douglas, this tournament is for you!

Elite students in the WIDL are invited to act as judges in the tournament.

Even if you can’t make it to the tournament, we’d love to see you at dinner! Cafe Rio will be catering and we’ll have a great time. Admission to the tournament will be $10. Admission to the dinner will be $12. Register for the tournament either as a competitor, for the dinner, or as judge here. We’re so excited to see you there!


UVU Model United Nations
The WIDL will be sending a team to the UVU Model United Nations Conference. The conference will be held January 29, 2021. You can see the conference page here. The team will consist of high school students. If you are interested in being on the team, talk to your teacher. More details to come in the January newsletter.

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have and increased our student body. We plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

 

Insights in Education

Ask Them to Listen to You Less

by Samuel Martineau

General Director of the WIDL

In the midst of my student teaching (I was teaching Debate and History at Davis High School), I met with with my student teaching cohort in my college teaching class.  We had been assigned to small groups to talk about our classes and to workshop any classroom management issues we were experiencing. We each talked about our classes and received some advice from our fellow students. Eventually we arrived at one of the student teachers  who had been assigned to teach, apparently, the worst of all choir classes. He talked about how incredibly unruly his students were, how he had tried everything under the sun, how nothing would work, etc. We asked questions and tried to give useful feedback, but he quickly made sure that we knew that nothing, nothing, we could suggest to him would make any difference for these students. The class, he assured us, was beyond retrieval.

One the one hand, his attitude wasn’t too impressive. Collective teacher efficacy, that is, teachers holding a collective cultural belief that they can make a difference in their classrooms and in the lives of their students, is one of the most powerful factors in student achievement.

 

On the other hand, I have a hard time not sympathizing with him. I think every teacher has, at some point, felt frustrated because their classroom has gotten away from them. They mostly want someone to empathize with them instead of offering suggestions. Classroom management can be difficult no matter what you do.

 

There are plenty of approaches which can help teachers manage a classroom. I would like to focus on one, and one that has

demonstrated the largest impact in my personal experience teaching. The reason it works so well is because it is built into the structure of your class, it is a strategy that you plan out well before you are in the classroom, and it largely gets rid of the reason you need classroom management in the first place. The strategy is relatively simple in concept: ask students to listen to you less.

In your classroom, take a moment to think of a number. What percentage of the time in class are you speaking to your class and expecting that they are listening, answering questions, and taking notes? Almost any teacher will tell you that it's important to get students actively engaged in their curriculum, and yet studies suggest that most teachers spend between 70%-80% of their classroom time doing the speaking in class. Not only does this take away opportunities for students to learn, it creates a classroom management nightmare! I hope that this will come as a shock to no one: students don’t like sitting still and listening! It rarely engages higher order thinking and even if it does, the amount of information that a student can process in a single sitting is limited. As a result, the strategy is boring, especially for the almost 10% of students with ADHD (I would think higher in the homeschooling community given that many homeschooled students are homeschooled precisely because traditional strategies aren’t working well for them). In addition, your students are likely sitting next to their friends with whom they enjoy speaking or have their phone overflowing with stimulating information sitting just in their pocket. How to deal with the situation? You could make a seating chart so that they aren’t sitting next to students with whom they will likely chat, you can collect their phones ahead of time. Perhaps these are good strategies. But what if the classroom was structured such that these strategies simply become less necessary because students are more actively engaged in their curriculum?

It takes serious planning to reduce the amount of time you are speaking in class as a teacher. You have to be creative about what your activities will be, you may have to prepare materials ahead of time, you may have to find outside resources that you can use to cover necessary content during homework, you may even have to make some videos ahead of time so that students can cover any necessary lectures at home when they aren’t sitting next to their friends. But the benefits you’ll see in classroom management and student achievement will more than compensate.

 

Next time you are trying to slog through a lecture shushing all the way, imagine if instead your students were discussing an interesting question in small groups, with an assignment for the group to come up with a theory to be presented to the rest of the class. Or maybe your students could be debating a topic in pairs. Perhaps your students could be doing a jigsaw activity, creating an advertisement for a product that they will explain to the class, doing a simulation, engaging in textual analysis, seeking out evidence on a question, or any other number of activities. This will not solve any and all classroom management issues. You’ll still have to explain the activity to the class, you’ll still have to work to keep students on task, there will still be students who cope with their lives by making sure you know that they don’t approve of your class. But you will have gone an awfully long way toward making your classroom easier for yourself as a teacher. And you will have gone a long way toward making your classroom more meaningful to your students as well.

 

As a note, when you really commit to active learning as a strategy in your classroom, the result is that you will get to cover less content, but I have found that the tradeoff is almost generally worth it. Covering less content well is generally better than getting to some arbitrary point that you feel compelled to cover.

 

To conclude, there is this stress that I think all teachers have felt. It is the stress of knowing that their students aren’t listening and aren’t really getting much out of a given lecture. Instead of handling that stress by standing in the middle of the river pleading with it to turn back, maybe just get out of the river as quickly as possible. Get the river working for you, not against you, by getting your students actively doing. Because it is what they wanted to do in the first place.

 
 
 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter November 2021

Welcome to the third edition of the newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We’ve kicked off the year and have some exciting things going on in and out of the classroom. Read on to hear from our teachers, hear the news, and see how you can get involved!

 

In the Classroom  "I Think I've Found My People"

by Jamie Whittier, WIDL Teacher

As a new teacher in the Heber Utah area, and actually new to speech and debate completely, I had no idea what to expect going to my first tournament a few weeks ago. A few of my beginning students came with, all of them as "green" as me. We went our separate ways once the tournament began and I tried to listen in occasionally as their rounds commenced in impromptu. After one round of watching one of my students, Remi, I asked her how she felt. "That was awesome," she said. "I think I've found my people!".

After the awards ceremony, I asked all of my students how they felt about the day; they all echoed Remi's sentiment. They loved the energy, the enthusiasm, but most of all, they loved the culture of kindness and friendship. They loved that after every round the people in their rooms congratulated each other. They loved how excited people were when their peers received awards. They loved how they didn't feel like outsiders, even going in knowing nobody and being some of the youngest students in the competition.

WIDL, thanks for being our people!

 

Highlights from October

BYU Fall Classic Tournament 

We had our first tournament of the year and it went so well. Thank you to BYU Independent Study for hosting us. Thank you to all the staff and judges who made the tournament possible. A special thank you to our new Director of Tournaments, Jared Johnson, for the work he put in to make the tournament amazing. There were approximately 265 students competing, including a strong component of online students competing from around the country. The integration of the online and the in person elements of the tournament worked remarkably well thanks to our fantastic staff. You can see results for the tournament here and pictures from the tournament here.

Model United Nations

The WIDL competed at BYU Model United Nations on Friday Oct. 22, 2021. The competition included students from high schools all over the state. Our team was relatively small for this conference, but they did great! Under the direction of Suzanne Christensen our students represented Ukraine. The team consisted of-

  • Simon Kisby

  • Mia Carter

  • Peter Hyde

  • Alexander Henage

  • Maxwell Warren

  • Kathryn Frogley

  • Spencer Christensen

  • Ryan Hyde

The team won several awards including an overall delegation award of “Distinguished Delegation”. As partnerships, Simon Kisby and Mia Carter won a position paper award and Peter Hyde and Alexander Henage won peer awards. We are so proud of our students. Way to go! You can see pictures here.

International Public Policy Forum

We want to congratulate four WIDL students for making it into the top 64 teams in the nation for the International Public Policy Forum debate competition. These students are Abe Olenslager, Bronson Bishop, Alexander Henage, and Peter Hyde. These students will have the opportunity to debate for a spot in the finals competition in New York later this year. Way to go students!

WIDL Gear is Here!

.2021-2022 WIDL t-shirts and hoodies are here!  They will only be available for a few weeks, so get them now.  You can place your order here

 

Looking Forward

All Online Tournament

Our second tournament of the year is all online and that means that wherever you are, you can participate in the full tournament experience. There will be a full slate of events in which to compete (whether you are a student in a league class or not). We would also love to have you judge or just take the opportunity to observe some of the great competition we have going on. Information about the tournament can be found at the tournament page.

If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away!
 

WIDL Annual Christmas Food Drive

Every year the WIDL sponsors our annual food drive to benefit food pantries in our local communities. It is an inter class competition to see which class can gather the most food or cash donations for a local food bank per student in the class. The competition will run this year from November 22-December 11. The top classes will be announced at the December 11 tournament at the University of Utah and the top class will be provided with a pizza party by the WIDL. Most importantly, every year students go a long way toward making sure that food banks have enough supplies to meet the needs in their communities. Last year WIDL students gathered over 44,000 lbs of food and over $12,000 in cash donations. We can’t wait to see what our students accomplish this year!

WIDL Parent Alumni Tournament and Dinner

We’re excited to announce that the Parent Alumni Tournament and Dinner are coming up on Thursday, Dec 30th! There are two elements to the event. The tournament will run from 12-5pm, and dinner will be right after that from 5:30-7:30pm. You can register for either or both (you should definitely do both!)

 

The two events in the tournament are Oratory and Spontaneous Lincoln Douglas. Oratory will run as usual, but Lincoln Douglas will have times cut in half and the topic will be announced the day of the tournament. This means that if you’ve been wanting to compete with your old speech and debate compatriots or give what your students are doing a try, but you’re not sure you can foot the time commitment of preparing for a full Lincoln Douglas, this tournament is for you!

Elite students in the WIDL are invited to act as judges in the tournament.

 

Even if you can’t make it to the tournament, we’d love to see you at dinner! Cafe Rio will be catering and we’ll have a great time. Admission to the tournament will be $10. Admission to the dinner will be $12. Register for the tournament as a competitor here and as a judge here. We’re so excited to see you there!

 

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have, and increased our student body. And we plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

 

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

Insights in Education

More than Just Curriculum

by Samuel Martineau

General Director of the WIDL

 

“I don’t even know what changed but I used to feel like I didn’t want to be myself, and I was ashamed of myself all the time. But I don’t feel that way anymore, I am happy to be myself, I feel valuable and I just feel good about myself. This year I learned that the more I was myself when I was speaking the better I did, which was surprising to me because when I started I thought the opposite was true. I realized that what I have to say is important, worth hearing, and even though I’m not the most eloquent speaker I am actually not bad. It’s kind of funny how this whole time you have been teaching speech and debate and I ended up learning about myself.”

 

Each year I have students reflect on their experiences at the end of the semester and year by writing a “semester reflection”. The reflection has students write a paper that answers questions like, “What challenges have you had to overcome to be successful?”, “What have you learned about yourself this semester?”, “What grade would you give yourself and why?”, and “What is the most important thing you learned about speech and debate this semester?” This is a research backed approach given that self reported grades and self judgment and reflection are both rated as teaching strategies with “potential to considerably accelerate” in John Hattie’s Visible Learning dataset. They are also central to the teaching philosophy in the Wasatch Independent Debate League: if students are to learn and grow in a sustainable fashion they must confront embedded irrational beliefs and behaviors that keep them from investing in their education and taking the necessary risks to grow.

 

I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to read the reflection from the student above. I had spent years taking active measures to convince her that she was a person worth respecting, that any given failure did not have relevance to her value as a student and human, and that it was safe for her to take the sort of risks that she ended up taking in that final year of debate. To see those words voluntarily typed by her is the sort of thing you work for endlessly as a teacher and just hope that you will one day read. Of course, you can imagine the irony in reading “It’s kind of funny how this whole time you have been teaching speech and debate and I ended up learning about myself.” In fact, I had spent the whole time very much trying to teach her about herself.

 

“Speech and Debate has a misleading title. It should be Speech, Debate, and Respect. I learned about respect. I learned to respect every competitor. I learned to respect the competitor who did better than me and the competitor who didn’t place as well as me. I learned to respect people who had been in the league for 5+ years and those who were brand new to the league. I learned to respect competitors in LD and competitors in Spar. EVERYONE. I saw them as people. Not as placings. Not as years of experience. Not as events. But as real people who were doing their best and that was enough and it never mattered where I placed or where they placed. Medals might as well be made of dirt for all it mattered. Everyone was entitled to that respect. That was a very moving thing for me.”

 

Students carry all sorts of irrational beliefs and behaviors around with them that keep them from flourishing as students and people. Here is a sample of beliefs that I have run across during my time teaching-

  • “I have to perform better than those around me to be liked or respected. There is only so much respect and love to go around and if someone else gets some, there is less left in the pot for me. I have to compete with other students to be loved and respected.”

  • “If I do my best, then maybe it won’t be enough. Better to not find out what my best looks like and maintain the possibility that I’m great than to rule it out for sure.”

  • “If I do my best then people will begin to expect me to perform to that same level every time. I know I’ll fail them and myself. Better to let them think that I’m shallow and stupid. They already do and what harm has it done me?”

  • “If I can just work harder and do better at this tournament, I can finally have permission to like myself. I know that hasn’t worked up to this point, but this time will be different. This time I’ll win and I’ll be worth liking.”

  • If I decide to care about this class, then I lose my excuse when I fail. As long as I don’t care, I don’t have to be hurt when I don’t measure up. How can you be hurt by something you don’t care about?”

  • I didn’t choose to not complete my homework. It has to not be my fault. If it’s my fault I’m a bad student and a bad person. So it was my schedule, my parents, my teacher, or anything. Anything but me.”

  • I need people to see me and pay attention to me, because if they don't, how do I know if I’m accepted? Anytime that people aren’t paying attention, it’s a sign that I don’t belong.

You can usually only get students to say these things out loud if you build up a lot of trust and ask the right questions in the right moments, so you generally see these beliefs in students’ actions before you hear them say them with words. In other words, you generally get to see these beliefs because students behave as if they are true. It can take time to spot, but if you look closely you’ll find that irrational behaviors follow irrational beliefs. Do you have a student that accomplishes success after success and still talks poorly about him/herself? Do you have a student who is paralyzed by even small risks? Do you have a student who engages in inappropriate attention seeking? Do you have a student who has to one up his or her classmates? Do you have students who in some way engage in baffling behaviors that are damaging to their growth? If so, don’t pass it off as just a part of their personalities. Instead pay attention. Take an interest in those students. Try to understand them. Try to understand the beliefs that drive those behaviors. If you really want your students to grow, you can’t just be interested in your curriculum, you also have to have an interest in your students’ internal lives.

 

“The hardest challenge was learning how to trust myself and believe in myself. It's always been easy for me to see potential in those around me but hard for me to see it in myself. Something one of the judges told me has stuck with me, (paraphrasing) she said, “You need to trust yourself more, I can tell you’ve done the research and prepared. You just need to believe that you can do it.” She was the first to ever verbalize my insecurity, one that I thought I hid well, it made me realize how much she was right not only in this case but in many aspects of my life. Time after time I have not given something a try because I didn’t believe I could do it......My comfortable little bubble has popped and I don’t plan on making a new one.”

If, as a teacher, you want to make a long term impact on students, you have to be prepared to discover, understand, and challenge your students’ irrational beliefs. Though each circumstance in which you do this will likely differ, I would like to put forward a basic framework you can use to challenge students to see the world more rationally. The method can be thought of as a “V” shape and goes in these steps.

  • Identify with the student the behavior that concerns you.

    • Ask questions about why the student engages in the behavior.

      • Identify with the student the belief(s) that drive the behavior.

        • Ask the student whether or not they agree with the belief.

      • Identify a rational replacement for the previously held belief.

    • Ask questions about how the new belief would affect behavior.

  • Identify a new behavior that comports with the new belief.

In a practical application it would look something like this-

  • It appears that giving this speech is causing you some distress. Am I right about that?

    • What is it that is distressing about giving the speech? How do you feel when you are giving the speech? Why do you think you feel that way? etc.

      • It sounds to me like you are saying that you are dumb because you can’t speak as long as some of the other students. Am I right about that?

        • I have a question for you: do you really think that you are dumb if you can’t speak as long as other students? How do you think it makes the most sense to measure yourself in this circumstance? If you had a friend in your position, would you think that they are dumb? Why not?

      • So can we agree then, that the most important way to measure yourself here is by your willingness to try to get better? Can you be pleased with yourself for trying hard even if you can’t speak as long as every other student every time?

    • So, we’ve established that your speech doesn’t have to be any particular length and that the most important issue is that you try your best. So what do you think you should do if you start to feel anxious or like you are failing?

  • If I’m hearing you correctly, it sounds like you are going to give this speech your best even if it gets scary and then you will be willing to judge yourself based on whether or not you gave your best effort. Is that right?

 

Sometimes these conversations take a few minutes, sometimes longer, and sometimes they are spread out over a series of weeks or even months. Sometimes they happen with a single student, but frequently I talk about general problems with whole classes very regularly. Sometimes they have a big impact, and sometimes they leave a student with something to think about for the future. But overall, for the student in need of intervention and ready to make a change, making that intervention as a teacher can be absolutely key to helping students succeed in your class. And it can be so rewarding to see a student change behaviors, act more confidently, and begin to take the sort of risks that spur growth.

 

Teaching isn’t for people who want to teach math or science or speech and debate. It is for people who want to teach kids.

 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter October 2021

Welcome to the second edition of the newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We’ve kicked off the year and have some exciting things going on in and out of the classroom. Read on to hear from our teachers, hear the news, and see how you can get involved!

In the Classroom

by Jantzen Russell, WIDL Teacher

In class recently, we had a pretty heated discussion. I had two students who each did something amazing during this discussion. One changed her stance about six different times throughout our conversation. The other refused to change her mind, even when she was the only student with her stance. These students both exhibited two skills that we hope to instill in all our students. First, we want students to recognize that some ideas have merit and are worth defending, even if no one else agrees with you. It's valuable to stand up for what you believe in. At the same time, it's important for students to become okay with being wrong. We want our students to take risks and learn. And that can only happen if you're okay with being wrong. We want our students to be okay with changing their minds when presented with new information. These two students could end the school year today having learned some of the most valuable lessons we could teach them. Obviously, I really hope they don't do that.

 

Highlights from September

 

Civic Advocacy Program Members Announced

The WIDL Civic Advocacy is off the ground and running for the year. The list of students accepted into the program is as follows-

  • Abraham Olenslager

  • Bethany Norris

  • Bronson Bishop

  • Caroline Horlacher

  • Dalton Brown

  • Devin Whetten

  • Esther Stoddard

  • Jaron Funk

  • Jessalyn Bates

  • Kathryn Frogley

  • Kathryn von Rosen

  • Lilly Archibald

  • Peter Hyde

Congratulations to these students! We’re excited to see what you can do this year.

 

Students in the WIDL Civic Advocacy Program will be advocating at the State Legislature, at the UN (this year the Commission on the Status of Women), and will be applying for ECOSOC consultative status. If you have skills or resources that can support this group and would like to get involved (especially if you have a background in grant writing), contact our program director Kaelin Hirschi at khirschi2000@gmail.com

 

Wall Talk Podcast

The podcast Wall Talk is back for its second season and students of the League can apply to be a guest!  You can listen to last season's podcast here and watch for new episodes soon.  

 

Elite Class Philosophy Unit

Each year the elite classes in the league do a philosophy unit. In the past we’ve focused on utilitarianism with John Stuart Mill, deontology with Immanuel Kant, Just War Theory, etc. This year we turned to political philosophy studying The Federalist Papers. Watching students wrangle with the defense of the constitution by three founding fathers and seeing them exposed to the complexities of their political philosophy was a joy.

Sam’s Picks- If you want to read the papers Sam Martineau found most interesting take a look at

  • Federalist 37- Philosophical backing explaining why all law (including the constitution) contains grey area and will be in need of interpretation over time.

  • Federalist 62- Why senators serve for so long (answer: stability in government is itself a political good).

  • Federalist 40- James Madison says that the constitutional convention only probably had authority to create the constitution, but it doesn’t matter because in politics technicalities should be the servant of purpose, not the other way around.

  • Federalist 54- Madison’s not very flattering defense of counting slaves as 3/5 of a person in the census.

  • Federalist 1- Lays out the initial argument that becomes a theme throughout the papers: tyranny is just as likely to be achieved through too little government as too much.

Looking Forward

BYU Fall Classic Tournament October 30th

Our first tournament of the year is coming up and we would love for you to get involved! You can compete (even if you are not a student of the league), judge (so long as you are an adult), or just come to observe. We would love to see you there. You can participate in person or online. Information and registration for the tournament can be found on the tournament page.  If you are interested in competing, but you aren’t part of a class, get in touch with Charlotte McKenzie at admin@wasatchdebate.org and she can get you squared away.

WIDL Humanitarian Trip

The WIDL is going to Guatemala July 9-16, 2022 on an educational trip that will support Cultiva International. Great news- We have been able to secure Cultiva International Co-Founder Lucy Medina as our Humanitarian Trip Coordinator! She will be coordinating the trip and travelling with us to Guatemala. We’re excited to work with Lucy and benefit from her years of experience working in Guatemala and connecting with the communities from which we will be learning.

We have a maximum of 38 slots available. As of this writing 30 are taken. If you want to sign up you can do so here. Priority in registration will be given to the following groups as follows (elite student priority registration has already passed)-

  • Intermediate Students- 10/1-10/8

  • Beginning Students- 10/9-10/16

  • Alumni and Other Friends of the WIDL- 10/17 until the trip is full   Register Here

 

The WIDL Wants to Grow in Your Area!

Over the last year, the WIDL has experienced some awesome growth. We've tripled the number of teachers we have, and increased our student body. And we plan on growing EVEN MORE next year. We're already starting to add new classes for the 2022-2023 school year.

If you, or someone you know, has ever wanted to have a WIDL in your/their area, have them fill out this form, and we’ll get in contact. Or, you can feel free to email our Director of Marketing, Jantzen Russell, directly at jantzenr@gmail.com.

Even if you live out of state, we can onboard and train a teacher in your area to create the amazing experience that is the WIDL.

Insights in Education 

A Meaningful Definition of Propaganda

by Samuel Martineau, General Director of the WIDL

To begin my class each week, I present a scenario to students to discuss and debate. The scenario centers on some controversial legal, political, ethical, or philosophical question. After doing my best to press students to take and defend positions, challenge whatever position the students take, and introduce them to some of the complexities of the issues at hand, we conclude and move on to other elements of the class.

 

Within the first few weeks of a beginning level class, someone always asks, “Well, Sam, what do you think?” Sometimes a student will even ask, “But what is the right answer?”

 

I decline to offer the answer for which they seek. I want to explain why.

 

Have you ever thought about words that seem to mean something really specific, but it turns out they don’t mean much at all? I recall the writer Jonah Goldberg making that point about the word “dogma”. The word dogma means the uncritical acceptance of and rigid adherence to a belief or set of beliefs. But that isn’t always what it means when people use the word. If you consider when you have heard it used, doesn’t it usually mean something like “a belief that I disagree with and so must have been uncritically accepted and rigidly adhered to.” In other words, it looks like dogma means something specific, but it turns out is generally used as a generic stand-in for “something with which I disagree.”

 

This brings me to a word I hear frequently used in relation to education: propaganda. I’ve seen this word used in an educational context frequently over the years. Perhaps you have too. Perhaps you have also noticed that propaganda always seems to be the activity of people with whom the speaker disagrees politically or philosophically. Propaganda is always for thee and never for me, if you will. This leads me to suspect that when an educational practice is called propaganda, this

word is really a generic stand-in for “this teacher or curriculum promotes ideas I dislike.”

 

This is a shame, because propaganda as a framework does have the potential to present a very valuable meaning in an educational context. Therefore, I propose a specific and meaningful definition of the word propaganda for an educational context. I propose that this definition be grounded in the fact that teachers often have an easier time than the average person getting past the critical thinking barriers of students for three reasons:

  • Teaching is generally viewed as a distinct activity from persuading

  • Teachers are largely viewed as authoritative arbiters of facts relating to their subject

  • Young students often have a difficult time telling the difference between issues that are highly debatable and issues that are largely settled. 

 

Therefore, I propose that propaganda be understood to mean a practice in which a teacher or a curriculum takes advantage of the aforementioned lowered critical thinking barriers in order to advance a political or ideological agenda as definitive academic truth as opposed to a contested argument.

 

For example, imagine a class titled “Constitutional Studies.” The reality is that how strictly the enumerated powers should be interpreted, whether originalism or living constitutionalism is the best interpretive approach, the degree to which racism informed the writing of the constitution, and a whole host of other issues are hotly contested issues in society. I believe that a teacher or curriculum treating these issues as settled academic facts in a classroom would be propaganda. I also believe this approach is not what is best for students.

 

This brings me back to that critical moment. “Well, Sam, what do you think?” asks the student. “What is the right answer?” asks the student. I decline to offer the answer for which they seek. Instead I tell them that I don’t wish to shortcut their thinking on these important issues by giving them the impression that there is a settled answer to which all reasonable people have agreed. I tell them that I want them to have to deal with the discomfort and complexity that difficult issues present. I tell them that I think their parents would be a much more appropriate source to which they could turn for guidance on values and worldviews. I tell them that I am more interested in their ability to think well than the conclusions to which they ultimately come. I tell them that I have my opinions and that I believe in them deeply, but not so very deeply as to make propaganda out of them.

 

This is, of course, a difficult line to walk. And no teacher can or will do it perfectly. And there are probably reasonable exceptions to the rule (as with most “rules” in education). But I just can’t help but think that there is a huge difference between teachers or curriculums that are doing their best to present students with a nuanced view of difficult issues and opportunities to think about them deeply and teachers or curriculums that are using education as a cover to push specific political or philosophical viewpoints so that students come to the “right” conclusions.

 

I would, frankly, like to see more teachers and curriculums in the “trying” category because I believe it will better prepare students to understand and operate in a complex world.

 
 

The Wasatch Independent Debate League Newsletter September 2021

Check Out All the Exciting Things We Have Going On!

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter for the Wasatch Independent Debate League! We want to share the exciting things that we have going on, let you know of ways you can get involved, and promote a vision of education to benefit the homeschooling community. Read on to see what’s going on and what’s new. Go all the way to the end for insights on education from our General Director, Sam Martineau.

Highlights from 2020-2021

  • Matthew Hatch from the WIDL Student Council started our official WIDL Wall Talk podcast where students discuss current events (you can listen to the episodes here).

  • Students in the WIDL Civic Advocacy Program presented at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2021.

  • WIDL Students gathered $12,943 and 44,540 lbs. of food in our annual Christmas food drive.

  • The student council tried its hand at running two speech and debate tournaments on their own.

  • Students from the WIDL competing on the Integritas mock trial team placed 9th at Mock Trial Nationals.

  • Abraham Olenslager from the Provo Intermediate class spoke at the America’s Freedom Festival at Lavell Edwards Stadium on July 4th.

  • Dallin Christensen from the Student Council is awarded the U.S. Presidential Scholarship becoming one of Utah’s three U.S. Presidential Scholars from Utah in 2021.

  • The WIDL recently just wrapped up its annual Mock Trial Camp. Congratulations to Team Esther Stoddard for winning the team competition for the camp and to Peter Hyde for winning the top individual award. You can see full results for the camp as well as all of last year’s tournaments here.

  • The WIDL expanded! We opened our first out-of-state branch last year in Mesa, Arizona. The branch was directed and taught by Rachelle Scott, one of our fantastic new teachers last year. She did an incredible job and the branch has continued to grow with now a beginning and an intermediate class in the area for the upcoming year. Welcome to the WIDL Arizona!

  • Overall it was a challenging but rewarding year. Covid restrictions meant that most of our tournaments moved online. And like most organizations we had to manage a variety of opinions and desires with regards to our own restrictions. With a healthy dose of respect and civil discourse we were able to make it through. We also want to give a big thank you to Kim Goates and Canyon Grove Academy and Ruel Haymond and American Heritage School for hosting in person tournaments in April and May as case counts declined and restrictions were lifted. We depend so much on people like Kim and Ruel and we are so thankful that they are out there!

You can find more highlights in our 2021 Annual Report here, put together by James McKenzie from the Executive Board.

 

Looking Forward to 2021-2022

Some exciting news for the upcoming year!

Civic Advocacy Program This year elite students in the league will again be allowed to apply for our Civic Advocacy Program. After a fantastic pilot year, our fantastic alumna Kaelin Hirschi is back to lead and expand on the program. Like last year, the students will be learning about civic advocacy at the international level and will apply to again speak at the UN Commision on the Status of Women and continue working toward ECOSOC Consultative Status, but they will also pilot a new program engaging in civic advocacy at the state capitol for the 2022 legislative session. The best part of this program is that students will not be working toward advancing the agenda of another organization (as teens generally have to do in order to get an internship for the legislative session), but rather will be able to work together to target issues that are important to them and advance their interests on those issues. Students in this program will be getting a rare inside look into the system of influence at the international level and the legislative process at the state level. We are so excited to see what they accomplish. And the best part is that we are offering this program for free to students whose applications are accepted.

If you want to help support this program either financially or if you have experience in grant writing and want to share your expertise, contact Kaelin Hirschi at khirschi2000@gmail.com

 

WIDL Humanitarian Trip After two years off due to covid travel restrictions, the WIDL is headed back to Guatemala for our annual humanitarian trip. The dates will be July 9-16, 2022, and we will be going with Cultiva International. Cultiva helps chronically malnourished communities in rural Guatemala become more self-sustaining by teaching and supporting square foot gardening. The work they do is wonderful, but we particularly love partnering with them because of their perspective on humanitarian work- specifically their realistic view that the work done on humanitarian trips is often unsustainable, does less good than is expected, and can even harm the communities they are intended to serve. We appreciate their thoughtful and intentional approach to humanitarian work that fosters an attitude of respect for the communities in which they work.

Humanitarian work is a complex issue with many avenues to explore. If you want to get an idea of some of the issues worth considering, this article may be worth a look. Like all writing, the article does not necessarily tell the whole story and is subject to the biases of the author. But it introduces concepts worth thinking about and considering relative to humanitarian work.

Applications for the humanitarian trip will open shortly after the school year starts. We’ll allow current students and family members to apply first, and then will offer available spots to others afterward. Look out for opportunities to apply in future newsletters.

Tournaments We want to make a general announcement that parents, siblings, alumni, community members, anyone interested in getting a student in classes in coming years, or anyone really is invited to come and observe our tournaments throughout the year. We would also love for you to judge (as long as you are an adult). Judging is a great way to get to know the WIDL. It isn’t difficult, and we provide training for new judges at every tournament. So come and join us this year! We have a few tournaments on our calendar at this point, and more will be scheduled shortly. Keep a lookout in future newsletters for specifics on upcoming tournaments and invitations to judge or to just to come and observe!

New Members of the WIDL Team We are pleased to announce that we have added Nalyn Nelson, Jamie Whittier, Megan Lee, McKay Earl, Amy Jones, and Emma Engstrom to our WIDL teaching team. Jared Johnson has also taken on a new role as Director of Tournaments (Sam is very relieved by the way), and Kaelin Hirschi is officially taking up the position of Director of Civic Advocacy. Take a look at our complete team here.

Looking to Expand The WIDL wants to bring our program to students all over the country (National Independent Debate League here we come!). As classes start this year, we are looking to identify areas to target for expansion in the 2022-2023 school year. We’ve proved the model can work in Arizona and we have a plan for your area. If you are interested in bringing the WIDL to your area, get in contact with our Director of Marketing Jantzen Russell at jantzenr@gmail.com

Register for a Class!

The Wasatch Independent Debate League is growing!  We have new in person classes in Gilbert, Arizona and up and down the Wasatch Front.  We've also added online classes and online tournaments, so it doesn't matter where you live!  Classes are starting soon, so if you know someone who interested in Speech and Debate, spread the word!

We still have space in the following beginning classes if you want to get registered for this school year!

  • Tooele Beginning (Jantzen) Tuesdays 9:00-11:00

  • Online Beginning (McKay Earl) Tuesdays 10:30-12:30

  • Ascend Beginning South Ogden (Amy) Tuesdays, 2:45-4:45

  • Gilbert, Arizona Beginning (Megan Lee) Tuesdays 4:30-6:30

  • Lehi Beginning (Emma) Wednesdays 10:00-12:00

  • Cache Valley Beginning (NaLyn) Wednesdays 11:30-1:30

  • Taylorsville Beginning (Jantzen) Thursdays 11:00-1:00

  • Heber Beginning (Jamie) Thursdays 12:00-2:00

 

Register Here

 

Insights in Education

 What Actually Works in Education?

by Samuel Martineau, General Director of the WIDL

In my time in education, I’ve come across or been presented a number of theories of how education works or should work. These have included smaller learning communities, piagetian constructs, TJED, the trivium, VARK learning styles, open classrooms, Bloom’s taxonomy, critical approaches to education, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, and many others. I would assume that you have likewise heard of and experienced a number of approaches to education as well. In most cases I have heard people speak or write persuasively in favor of these approaches, but one of the most valuable lessons that being involved in the world of debate and critical thinking will teach you is that you can make almost any concept sound great theoretically. It’s when it comes time to support with evidence that things get tricky.

 

So I propose for the homeschooling community what I believe to be a simple and reasonable offering regarding whether or not we incorporate various approaches or curriculums- It should not be sufficient for an idea in education to make theoretical sense, sound exciting or inspiring, be a new development, be used anciently, or be different than a system that doesn’t work very well for us to devote our time, attention, and energy to that idea. Rather, I propose that in response to inspiring theories of education, we say, “show me the evidence that it works”.

 

What I want to know most is if any approach or system achieves meaningful change for students. The good news is that not only can we observe those changes in our children anecdotally, there is also a wealth of research that has been conducted on educational approaches.

 

I’ve recently been getting into the work of John Hattie. John Hattie is a renowned education researcher who has dedicated his career to answering the question “What works in education?”. In order to answer that question, Hattie has compiled a data set encompassing 277 unique influences on education outcomes and 100,000 studies conducted on over 300 million students around the world. While there are certainly critiques out there of Hattie’s work and no doubt flaws in his method (as with all ambitious research), Hattie’s research is a great place to begin to think about the question, “What works in education?”

 

The teachers of the WIDL delved into Hattie’s research this summer as a means of improving our own teaching methods. Here are some interesting findings from his research worth thinking about-

  • In the dataset there are almost no strategies or approaches that teachers use that don’t advance student learning to some degree. However approaches range in efficacy from barely effective to very successful in affecting change for students. So it should not be good enough for a teacher to say “the student advanced so I’m using the right methods!” As teachers we should be asking if our methods are having a serious and meaningful impact on student skills, habits, and ways of seeing themselves and the world.

  • A sometimes popular approach in the homeschooling community is to de-emphasize the role of the teacher in outcomes. This concept often sounds like “The student has to want it”, “Teachers are just there to guide students on their journey”, or “Inspire not require”. This is an example of an approach that sounds great in theory, but is simply not well supported, at least not in this dataset. It turns out that while the Hattie dataset shows that student attitudes and circumstances can have a serious negative effect on educational outcomes, the effects which really promote positive outcomes for students are largely teacher driven. Success in education is largely about how teachers view themselves and their students, what methods they use, what they require students to do, and so forth. And this comports with my experiences as a teacher. Whether or not my class will succeed is largely up to me as the teacher, so I must emphasize in my own mind the role that I play for my students.

  • While many of the findings are not very surprising (who knew that ADD is really tough for a student to deal with?), there are a number of findings that may be surprising based on conventional wisdom surrounding education. For example, standardized testing can have a strong positive effect on student outcomes, teacher praise by itself appears to do very little to bolster student achievement, teaching to “learning styles” is relatively ineffective, memorization drills can be very effective, etc.

  • The overall name chosen for the Hattie research is “Visible Learning”. The concept here is that the most effective strategies are strategies that you can see. Teachers don’t have to wonder if students are learning, because if they are learning, chances are that you can see it. Students learn best in activities that have them actively doing a thing that you can observe such as working in a group, speaking, writing, creating, or in some other way doing. This, again, comports with my experience as a teacher. The less time the student spends passively listening to me the more comfortable I am. I want my students actively doing for absolutely as much of any given class as I can manage.

 

I encourage you to get into the Hattie research. A good place to start is these two videos. Not only that, but you can access the entire Hattie dataset right here.

 

To sum up, two of the most powerful effects in the Hattie research are Collective Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Estimates of Achievement. These can be roughly translated into two questions. Do teachers have a strong belief in their ability to be agents of change for their students? Do teachers pay attention to whether or not their students are making real meaningful progress and adjust accordingly? Here in the homeschooling community we can raise our level of teaching and the outcomes for our students by taking those two questions seriously. Do we believe that we can make a difference and are we paying attention to what is actually facilitating real meaningful growth for students? I know that I can make a change and I do measure that change in the students I teach. For me, theories aren’t enough. I want the type of evidence I can see right in front of my eyes.