The Top 10 Reasons to be a Mentor to a Boston Public High School Debate Team
10. Boston high school debaters are amazing, dedicated kids. They get up at 5 AM every school day, often taking multiple buses and trains to be in class by 7:15 AM. Then they repeat that journey home to care for little brothers and sisters. Sometimes their families have lived in Boston for generations. Sometimes they are refugees from places like Somalia or Syria or Guatemala and act as interpreters for their parents. They are intelligent. Often highly intelligent. Your time will be well spent.
9. Many of these kids don’t start with the reading or analytical skills that their intelligence would suggest. Many of them have a hard time pronouncing certain written words. Debate and debate team practice is really a stealth way of tapping kids’ competitive drive so they want to internalize critical skills: reading, understanding a text well enough to put it into their own words and metaphors, speaking fluently, having confidence that their evidence-backed views deserve to be heard, using math practically to estimate, breaking a problem down into its components, looking into the eyes of those they are speaking to. You know how to do this cold. Pass it on.
8. Do you really think the teachers who are coaches can do this all by themselves? They start work at 6 AM. They work 11 hour days. Over 100 college-educated adults are needed to judge each debate round of 400 kids at a single tournament. Coaches are pressed into emergency service as judges, taking them away from their teams. Some tournament weekends they have competing family needs. These teacher-coaches need backup!
7. Every teacher I’ve met says that the Boston Debate League is the single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down. The “single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down,” needs you. Let it go to your head!
6. Teaching a pack of high school boys, at their request, how to tie their own ties: Be. The. Man.
5. When was the last time you walked into a room of clients and they shouted: “Where have you been??? We missed you!!!” ?
4. You will never get lost driving around Eastie or Brighton or Dorchester again.
3. Your parents came to your games in high school, right? Their parents often can’t because they are working to make ends meet and can’t afford the time or the money to travel by mass transit to tournaments. If you aren’t there, it is quite possible no one will be. Who will explain judges’ comments? Who will celebrate their triumphs? Who will just be there as they experience defeat and figure out how to come back? (A teenager who has just lost a debate round and asks for your advice really, really wants to hear it.)
2. Where do you think the next generation of DAs, public defenders, judges, transactional lawyers, entrepreneurs, governors and presidents are going to come from? Are you bothered by the increasing income and opportunity gap in America? Well, here’s your chance to do something about it. Urban education is the civil rights issue of our time.
1. Participation in the Boston Debate League is transformational. The shy kids talk. The class talkers listen. Reading and thinking skills grow. Work and preparation habits put down roots. It becomes cool to be smart and persuasive. College doors open. Go ahead — get in touch with your inner miracle worker!
Greg Peterson is a real estate and environmental partner at Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. in Boston. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and ranked in Chambers, U.S.A.. During the October, 2011 – March, 2012 Boston Debate League season he served as volunteer mentor to the Charlestown High School debate team. He is looking forward to the 2012-13 BDL season.