Setting Up a School Speakers Bureau
Utilizing Community Professionals to Enhance Classroom Learning
Setting up a list of speakers willing to share within the classroom provides real-life benefits for students and enhances curricular goals and help with essay.
Setting up a high school “Speakers Bureau” can take time, but the rewards are many. Hosting speakers can substitute for field trips that may no longer be feasible due to budget cuts. Speakers break the monotony of daily instruction, something students appreciate, and in most cases, speakers will volunteer their services.
Speakers Reflect Experience and Special Skills
Developing a list of possible speakers should reflect every subject area and level of expertise. Possible school speakers might include:
- Historical reenactors or interpreters
- Folklorists and story-tellers
- Local business owners
- Museum employees
- Medical professionals
- Holocaust survivors
- Military veterans
Many more professions can be added to this list. Often, the best source of speakers may be parents, PTA members, and alumni. Students in an Economics class might benefit from hearing how a business owner launched his enterprise. In one such instance, the owner of a chain of Mexican restaurants shared how he came from Mexico, began working as a dishwasher, and eventually opened his own restaurant.
If the community has a zoo or science center, speakers can be invited to share specific areas of interest that conform to classroom instruction and curricular goals. Local authors might be willing to share their experiences with an English class. A member of the NAACP might highlight the role of Civil Rights in American History.
Developing a Speakers Bureau
Developing lists of professionals willing to come into one or more classrooms takes time. The task can be facilitated through individual subject area departments or by appointing staff or faculty members to oversee the program. Effective programs take the responsibility out of the realm of individual teachers that, often over-burdened, view the procurement of speakers as yet another task.
Teachers can, however, consult the list and determine if a particular speaker might benefit the lesson plan outcomes. Individual teachers can then contact the speaker to determine available dates and needs (such as technology support). One successful teacher invited a professor of Russian History who had spent long periods in Russia to come and talk about the Russian Revolution. The relationship lasted for several years and the professor was clearly eager to share with interested high school students. Exactly, they won't say "I need help writing an essay" anymore.
Updating and Refreshing Lists of Speakers
Maintaining a vibrant speakers list involves constant updating and refreshing. Speakers should be thanked and asked if they might consider coming again. All speakers should be told that they will be part of an official “Speakers Bureau” for the school unless they elect not to be. Networking the parent and alumni community will add more potential speakers.
Qualifying Potential Speakers
All invited speakers should be approved by the school administration and/or the local school system. Toward that end, specific forms can be developed that document the background of the speaker and the effectiveness of the presentation. It is unrealistic and counterproductive to request background checks on speakers and in some cases might serve as a deterrent. School officials can, however, develop a sense of professionalism by securing basic background information.
Overall Benefits of Outside Speakers
Well-qualified speakers bring a wealth of life experience into the classroom. Their often poignant testimony, as with veterans or Holocaust survivors, not only affects students deeply but creates memories that transcend text chapters and sections. One history teacher vividly recalled a visit to his high school class by Jesse Owens, the gold medalist at the Nazi Olympics in 1936.
Speakers provide real-life examples that can never be fully communicated through texts or classroom lectures and discussions. A speakers list also does much to advance the image and reputation of the school within the community. Whether they have walked out of a corporate boardroom or a museum archive, speakers provide a focus that simply cannot be duplicated short of a field trip. Toward that end, every school should set up a Speakers Bureau.
About the Author:
David Monk, successful topic editor - education at EHOT COM.