Guest speeches at schools
February 23, 2006 7:04 PM   Subscribe

How would I go about giving guest speeches at public schools?

In theory.
posted by jimmy to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's often a challenge to fill enough spots on career day. I know my mom is always scrambling to fill spots, and it really doesn't matter whether your job is glamorous, kids are interested in speakers who are fun to listen to, even if their jobs are relatively dull.
posted by padraigin at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2006

Response by poster: That is to say, how would I go about BECOMING a guest speaker at schools, not actually how I'd go about delivering the speeches themselves.
posted by jimmy at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2006

Response by poster: padraigin, is there a formal method I should use in contacting the school? Should I just phone the (district/school) office in order to offer my services as a guest speaker?
posted by jimmy at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2006

1) Have a topic/s (more the better) they want to hear about/be trained on
2) Have the chops to back it up (i.e don't talk about FAS if you have never dealt with it)
3) Figure out what you are going to charge.
3) Have PR stuff professionally printed, and a web site done
4) Mass mail to school districts
5) Cross fingers. It WILL be slow for quite awhile, but IF you are good you may become very busy
posted by edgeways at 7:22 PM on February 23, 2006

That is if you want to do it professionally, if it is an informal thing, get to know your local school/s administrators and adapt the list above to fit
posted by edgeways at 7:24 PM on February 23, 2006

You would probably have the best luck if you know a teacher or administrator in the school system, or at least a parent whose children attend the school, who could "vouch" for you, as it were, but otherwise, yes, I'd write a cover letter saying that you're interested in speaking about such and such a topic, and send a resume that highlights any experience that would be relevant.

Were you interested in speaking on a certain subject? Is there a professional group or formal club for that subject that might have resources for you?
posted by padraigin at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2006

It helps if you're famous/infamous or if the courts are making you do it as part of your punishment/rehabilitation/repayment-to-society.

Otherwise, I remember someone who was interested in teaching handbells contacted the music/band department at my elementary school and a) got a pilot program started and b) did a performance/demo for the entire school with the neophyte handbellers. It didn't hurt that this person was pretty well known as a public-school music instructor.

A troupe of Yogic Flyers contacted the distrcit schoolboard and convinced someone to let them tour the district's elementary schools and give a demo.

Pepsi had a big presentation at my highschool (that everyone had to attent) when my HS signed a contract to exclusively purchase from PepsiCo and got a "sponsored" scoreboard for the gymnasium.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:12 PM on February 23, 2006

Sorry to answer this with other questions but:

Where are you? Canada? States?
What do you want to talk about?
Do you want to talk to a class room or the whole school?

In Canada I know groups that have done sex ed in schools by setting up a non-profit and then contacting the schools admin and school counsellors to offer their (volunteer) services. They just started up but have already gotten some appointments. I've give science talks to elementary school class rooms but that was through very informal invitations from teachers I knew.

On another note, if you want it to be a longer term thing you might want to have a criminal record check done. I'm pretty sure it's mandatory for coaches in Canada to have their record checked and so it might be a good idea if you are doing workshops or anything.
posted by kechi at 8:16 PM on February 23, 2006

I have some knowledge in this as I ran a program placing banking professionals in classrooms. My advice is public school based in the US.

First, you have to remember that the only currency that schools have is classtime and they are loathe to give it up. If your topic is not in line with their curriculum, you likely will not make it in front of students. Their calendars are
insanely full.

Second, schools are leery of people just wanting to talk to kids. It's a sad comment on our society, but my program had to do full background checks on all volunteers. Schools administrators routinely asked about them and the results.

Third, with the current emphasis on testing (No Child Left Behind) a lot of extraneous material is dropped for just the basics on what is being tested. So if your expertise is 19th century steam locomotives, you will have a hard time getting in.

Fourth, you do actually need some sort of expertise, preferably based on your profession. Being a banker helped in talking about money management. Being a research scientist would help in a chemistry class and so on.

But, if you are confident you have something to share and is relevant to the class, your best bet is to make friends with a teacher. They can lobby the principal (the true gatekeeper) for you. Some other things to do.

1. Be prepared - Have a packet of material and an outline of what you want to talk about ready to send to a teacher or principal. Every single teacher asked for my material in advance before saying yes.
2. Have personal references - Especially important if you are not going to be affiliated with a non-profit.
3. Talk to teachers early - On a semester based system, if I didn't have a commitment in the first month of school, I usually didn't get in. Schedules are set early.
4. Expect to be told no - For the reasons above and just in general, schools turn down the unfamiliar. Be prepared to roll with it.
5. Don't expect anything from the school - Schools get hit on for stuff all the time. "We'll give you these FREE binders for all your students! Oh, yeah but you need to sell the ad space in them to other local businesses..." Don't be that guy.
6. Make friends with the district's business partnership liaison - Most districts have someone who handles partnerships with local businesses. Meet them and get invited to a breakfast or district meeting. It adds credibility and legitimacy.

Long answer short, it is incredibly difficult, but can be very rewarding. These are not hard and fast rules either. Some teachers like breaks for the kids and can fit you in, so who knows.
posted by karmaville at 9:52 PM on February 23, 2006

Dang, I was hoping this was about delivering the speeches. I'm giving one to a civics class in an hour and a half, and I have no idea of what to say.
posted by waldo at 6:32 AM on February 24, 2006

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