The Golden State Academy puts award winning coaches in our classes so that students are equipped with the opportunity, the tools and the access they need to grow to their full potential. We interviewed debate coach Chris Flowers so you could get to know him a bit better and understand his connection to speech and debate.
Please introduce yourself :
Hi! My name is Chris Flowers. I am a former public school teacher beginning my 12th year of education in speech and debate. I have coached every debate event from Public Forum to Policy Debate. I see the value in all forms of speech and debate and truly enjoy working to help students find their voices and strengthen their arguments.
If you could only say 5 words for the next 10 years what would they be?
It sure is quiet here.
Share your most valued achievements competing in speech and debate thus far:
My most valued achievements are the ones where students suddenly get a concept in class, or when they break at a tournament for the first time. I have had several teams advance to late elimination rounds and even when major national tournaments and of course that is exciting, but the things that motivate me the most as a coach are the smaller steps unknown debaters take every day to become a better speaker, advocate and person.
What made you want to coach?
Ninth grade communication class. I was actually a highly UN-motivated student until that class introduced me to Forensics. The coach of my team was a special educator and was transformative to my school career and life. I was inspired by her and several other coaches to continue the tradition of transformative coaching.
What aspects of speech seem to be the most challenging for students?
Debate is an art not a science. It’s actually little more than a game of persuasion. So, learning to experiment, grow from mistakes and not having confidence early on can really help tremendously. New debaters especially often forget that they are around similarly experienced students and in many cases are equal in terms of talent and knowledge. The thing that sets most new debaters apart is when they can be realistic about their accomplishments, hard-working towards their goals, and confident even in those moments where they know they are improvising or just making their best guess. Debate doesn’t make much sense in abstract, and so getting over your first practice debate or competition is a major part of the learning process.
What are some of your must-haves before teaching class?
Diet coke, full glass of ice water, and at least one of two class pets, my puppies Chloe and Molly.
Do you think interpretation could help debaters debate?
Yes. Debate is a game of persuasion. Also, interpers are also presenting arguments, but in a radically different way than the debater. Besides obvious performance requirements, the only difference is speech is rhetorical while debate is dialectic.
How do you encourage students to prepare for competitions?
Cut cards, practice speaking drills, scout out the teams that will be there and write blocks, write, edit and practice your argument extensions and case overviews as often as you practice giving your constructive speech.
What advice would you give students about research, vocabulary and current events?
NPR is the place to go for current events. Google Scholar for everything else. Debate will teach you that what gets put out in major news outlets is very superficial and often polarized in the status quo. Look for those objective sources. Also, realize that the research you’re doing is about people’s actual lives. Empower yourself to do more than just debate when you find an issue that concerns you greatly.
Who are your favorite speakers of all time?
Barack Obama and Demosthenes
Name one of your favorite speeches of all time.
Probably the last debate speech I ever gave. We totally should have won that round.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
Debate is so special to me because it trains people to be smarter thinkers and better speakers, but it is also a social outlet where like-minded students can befriend one another and form lifelong bonds. I love getting to be a part of that and ushering those experiences in for debaters of all experience levels and abilities.
What are your favorite events to watch?
Policy, LD and PF
Best websites to help students research?
Academia.edu, google scholar, Libgen, researchgate, sci hub,
Advice for anyone nervous about speech?
Nerves are completely natural, and I don’t think they ever completely go away. Being prepared won’t get rid of them either, but it will allow you to still execute the way you have rehearsed or practiced despite being nervous.
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