ModernBrain's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

all classes volunteering Jul 05, 2024

At ModernBrain, we understand that parents and students alike have many questions about our programs, classes, and overall approach. To help you navigate, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions and provided detailed answers to ensure you have all the information you need. Let’s dive in!

1. What Are Your Most Popular Classes?
As of Summer 2024, our most popular classes include:

  • Elementary School: Speech and Debate Comprehensive, Littles Speech, Congress and Impromptu, Debate Comprehensive, Elementary Nationals.
  • Middle School: Speech and Debate Comprehensive, Speech Nationals, Mock Trial, Public Forum Debate, Model United Nations.
  • High School: Speech Nationals, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, Lincoln-Douglas, Congress Nationals.

2. How Many Students Are in Each Class?
We start our normal classes with a minimum of four students. If we have more than 10 students in a class, we’ll bring in a second instructor to maintain an optimal student-teacher ratio. For our Speech Nationals Team, if we have more than five students, we’ll bring in a second teacher to maintain that ratio.

3. Which Class Is the Right Fit for My Student?
It fully depends on the student. About 80% of students start with one of our comprehensive courses. If they’re in high school, they typically interview directly into one of our speech/debate competition teams or take a foundational MUN or mock trial course before interviewing for those teams. We highly recommend doing a free informational session before registering for your first course with us.

4. How Often Do Students Meet? What Is the Time Commitment?

  • Regular Classes: Two hours per week during the school year, with no more than two hours of homework (often completed in 30 minutes).
  • Nationals Competition Classes: Typically two hours per week, with additional workshops/scrimmages. Students are expected to practice for 30 minutes every day to remain competitively viable.
  • Tournaments: Speech/debate students normally compete every two weeks. MUN and mock trial students compete every six weeks.

5. Do You Offer Make-Up Class Options?
Yes. If a student misses a class and communicates with us, we will find time in the same class on a different day of the week that fits the student’s schedule. This class may be online or at a different location.

6. Can Students from Academies Compete at Tournaments?
Students must go to the NSDA, NCFL, and TOC competitions in high school with their schools. We provide robust support in helping that happen, including setting up NSDA accounts and corresponding with school administrators.

However, students can attend nearly all invitational/bid tournaments, NIETOC (the speech TOC), and the mock trial TOC and world championship under academy names. We are the only academy to ever win sweepstakes awards at both NIETOC and the Mock Trial TOC.

7. What Are the Levels of Competition?

  • Invitational-Level Competitions: Open to anyone.
  • League or District Competitions: Must be attended with your school, not our academy.
  • State or National (NSDA, NCFL) Competitions: Must qualify through our league or district.
  • High School TOC: Must be attended with your school, not our academy.
  • Alternative National Competitions: Can be attended with academies after earning ‘bids’ (high placements at competitive invitationals).

8. What Are the Differences Between ES and MS Competition?
Elementary school offers fewer competitive opportunities. Most speech categories last for five minutes. Middle school offers more opportunities; most speech categories last for ten minutes. Top fifth graders can attend middle school-level tournaments but need to lengthen their speeches. For example, last year, a fifth-grader was a national middle school finalist at the NSDA.

9. What Are Your Teachers' Credentials/Backgrounds?
To be considered for a ModernBrain coaching position, candidates need extensive experience with education/coaching and/or winning/competing at the national level. Our coaches complete certification courses on student safety and mental health, protecting students from abuse, and communicating effectively with parents. Background checks are required, and we follow a rigorous onboarding process to ensure each class is meticulously crafted and engagingly taught by experts in their fields.

10. How Can I Volunteer?
Visit our volunteering page. Popular forms of volunteering include representing us at festivals like the Irvine Global Village Festival, judging younger students at competitions, or being a ModernBrain TA as you’re available throughout the season.

11. How Can We Sign Up for Private Lessons?
Contact [email protected] and express which specific areas you need help with. We’ll contact coaches for availability and get back to you with a way to book them. Once you purchase your session(s), we’ll set up an appointment.

12. Do You Offer Trial Classes?
Yes, but in a private/Zoom setting to minimize disruption to our already-running classes. Teachers dividing their focus to bring trial students up to speed on lessons distracts from their ability to effectively engage with students who have already been absorbing the content and want to learn more.

13. What Are You Looking for in Your Nationals Team Interviews?

  • Student Enthusiasm: If a parent does most of the talking or the student isn’t sure why they’re speaking with the interviewer, it’s a major red flag.
  • Time Commitment: If a student is very busy on weekends with other extracurriculars, it’s a red flag.
  • Passion and Resilience: If a student indicates they’re not good at learning from losses, it’s a red flag.
  • Expertise: We need to assume they have a foundational understanding of the concepts before they’re ready for a full season of competitions.

14. Do You Have Curricula?
Yes—our curricula are rigorously designed and vetted across years of study, updated regularly. We have full lesson plans built out and shared on Google Classroom with our students. For nationals teams, curricula are dictated by upcoming competitions, making them more modular and flexible based on students’ needs.

15. What Is Your Refund Policy?

  • All scheduled events are subject to change. No fees will be refunded or transferred unless a child is unable to participate due to an accident or illness per physician orders.
  • ModernBrain does not offer refunds after a class begins; funds may be reallocated toward class credit for a future term.
  • In unforeseen circumstances (e.g., coach's car breaking down, outbreak at an in-person site), ModernBrain reserves the right to move up to two classes per semester from in-person to online. Impacted families will be alerted ASAP.
  • Any refunds distributed will have third-party vendor service fees subtracted (e.g., Square takes a 3% service fee).

We hope this comprehensive Q&A addresses all your queries about ModernBrain. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Happy learning!

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