Workshop Spotlight: In-school Debating

Debating Tutor, Hena Pagoo, shares her experience of doing face-to-face in-school outreach work with students at Canterbury Academy

Returning to University for a new academic year has meant that I was able to continue working as a Debating and Outreach tutor. I was aware that the number of in-person work opportunities would be limited in light of the pandemic. Working as part of the outreach team over the last few months has been essential when it came to adapting sessions for delivery online and has really changed the dynamic that comes with working as a tutor.

However, I was recently very keen to sign up to an in-person debating module at a Partner school [Canterbury Academy], co-delivering with another tutor (Connor). The Debating module runs for six weeks and aims to give students an insight into public speaking and British Parliamentary debating. I was extremely excited to be accepted for this work opportunity, as personally I have found debating and interacting online to be more challenging. Many of the general skills and key take-aways from debating require students to implement this practice in-person, in order to get the most out of their sessions.

There were, however, a number of restrictions I have had to adhere to, and risk assessments that needed to be completed. As such, I am required to wear a visor provided by the Partnership Development Office, to wear my own face mask and to ensure I carry my own hand sanitiser at all times. I was sure that there would be restrictions in place, for the protection of the students within the school, as well as for my own protection. Having been briefed for the session, and setting off to deliver the first of six, the experience was an extremely positive one. Whilst I had to maintain social distancing, working with the students within the classroom was an exciting opportunity and helped me find my feet again with in-person delivery.

We arranged the room in a manner which encouraged students to work together in smaller groups, and divided our attention to particular groups of students. Whilst this may sound like a restrictive approach to take, it was important to maintain minimal contact, whilst also ensuring students were engaging with the tasks. Returning to work as a tutor has reminded me just how rewarding my position is. I was able to see students willingly engage and participate in the activities being set and actively ask questions about debating. Physically seeing and interacting with students again has been a change from online sessions, and a positive one too. It was also very encouraging to see that students were keen to contribute, as participation is crucial to ensuring the success of the module.

I hope to continue building a relationship with students as a tutor over the next few weeks, and that they have been very receptive of the content they are learning. In-person delivery has been exciting and all the more worthwhile in the time of a pandemic when opportunities are already limited.