One of the most effective teaching strategies for teachers is an invitation to guest speakers to visit the classroom. Including other voices in the classroom invites different perspectives and shows that learning is a collaborative effort. It is important to remember, that inviting a guest speaker is not simply intended to give the teacher a break. Students have the opportunity to learn something new that interests them from a guest speaker. Students can also discover a new interest in a topic where previously they had little interest.
The guest speaker is the “real world” arriving in the classroom. The speakers might be parents presenting during Career Week. Nurses and doctors discussing health issues. Even an engineer giving background information on bridges before the annual craft stick bridge building contest. A guest speaker supports subjects a teacher may not know a lot about. They show students that teachers are not the final word on important topics, issues, or current events. The guest speaker will educate students but can also be a good resource for the teacher as well.
Inviting local guest speakers is great for creating community-school relations too. In most towns, regardless of the population, there are people who can be invited to the classroom as guest speakers. Some of the invited people may be lifelong citizens. They will open the eyes of students about topics or issues they did not know existed in their community. Having them in the classroom brings the wider community into the student’s lives.
The guest speakers have a chance to connect with students. They are introduced to an environment they may not have been a part of since they attended school. It may encourage local guest speakers to become more involved with the school or district. Through sharing ideas, offering opportunities for students, or simply helping when the school needs assistance, they feel more connected.
Parents are another great source for guest speakers. Though parents are often extended an invitation to speak during career week, attend an open house, or observe the classroom, many are willing to speak to students like any other professional guest speaker. Most parents would love the opportunity to speak to students at the school. It does not necessarily need to be in their son or daughter’s classroom. At the beginning of each school year, send a notice to parents asking if they would be interested in being a guest speaker. Ask about their interests or skills that can be beneficial to students. You never know what unique skills or experiences parents have.
Having guest speakers in the classroom is fun. Besides the lesson students learn, many guests enjoy the attention and students look forward to hearing a different voice. They ask questions, are encouraged to seek more information, and students may become inspired by a guest speaker and interested in the subject when hearing about it firsthand. When booking the guest, inform him or her of the total number of students, as some guests like to bring handouts or other items for students. Make sure to allow time for a Q&A session at the end of the presentation too.
In addition, remember to remind the guest speaker of the allotted time for the presentation. Often, guest speakers who spend the day are surprised at how draining the experience can be as many are not used to speaking to a group of excited children in a classroom or auditorium setting. You may want to consider asking the speaker if you can record the presentation for future use as well.
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