Academic meet goes virtual

Academic meet goes virtual

Manasvi Reddy, Editor-In-Chief

Calculator keys were still punched and captivating speeches were still delivered last week, but Rider students competing in the first University Interscholastic League (UIL) competition didn’t leave their campus this time. 

Instead, they competed virtually at Archer City’s Invitational A Meet, completing their tests in Rider classrooms or from their homes under the observation of advisers from Jan. 11-16. 

UIL Mathematics, Number Sense, Calculator and Accounting coach Jane Ramirez didn’t notice a lack of participation due to the irregularity of the events, especially because many of the students have been competing since junior high.

“Usually these UIL Math kids are the ones that are motivated to challenge themselves,” said Jane Ramirez, UIL Mathematics, Number Sense, Calculator and Accounting coach. “And they’ve been doing this for awhile.”

Ramirez was able to adjust to the virtual format by posting exams and proctoring her group of remote students over Google Classroom. For first year Social Studies, Informative Speaking and Persuasive speaking coach Aaron Wilson, the changes were easier made in certain events than in others.

“Social Studies practice was easy to adapt because of our experience with distance learning,” he said. “Speaking, on the other hand, posed challenges.”

Because speaking events are typically held in front of a live audience, preparing students to deliver their speeches virtually was a unique challenge. However, Wilson believes that there is value in the experience.

“Contemporary society is so digitally connected that preparing for this new medium offers students opportunities to expand their talents,” he said. “But it does require us to adapt.”

Despite several Rider students’ successes at the meet, the format was less than ideal. For Ramirez, the face-to-face interaction that typically contributes to the fun of travelling and competing was the biggest loss.

“There’s just that fun of being on the bus, eating lunch, grading tests with the other teachers,” she said. “I miss the camaraderie and just the socializing…It’s definitely not the same.”

However, since an academic meet usually takes place in a single day rather than over an entire week, the virtual method did provide some flexibility, allowing students and coaches to test at their convenience.

“Normally, the tournament makes for a very long Saturday that students and teachers are committing to, so I actually think this was a great way for the tournament to be held,” said Tabitha Cahanin, UIL Academics coordinator. Cahanin also coaches Poetry and Prose and directs UIL One Act Play. “The downside was the students did not get to interact with other schools, and we didn’t get to feel the buzz of anticipation that can normally be felt in the waiting area of the tournament.”

In Feb., UIL will once again again offer a mix of virtual and in-person meets for its Invitational B event. However, the organization plans to host the 2021 State Meet in-person from April 29-May 1, with speech events later in the month, on the University of Texas at Austin campus. The Rider UIL teams are moving forward from a successful competition with new goals and acquired skill.

“They embraced the challenge, and were creative in developing solutions,” Wilson said. “What made it even more impressive was the fact that this was their first meet. They gained valuable experience that will help them in the next competition.”



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