Bringing An Outside Speaker To Your Class? Here's How To Make The Day A Success!

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Aug 07, 2018
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Teaching Strategies, Tips for Teachers, Career

First of all: Thank you. If you are reading this then you have brought or plan to bring an outside speaker to your classroom. There are so many benefits to your students that come from bringing outside voices to speak to your students. Let's name just a few:

  • Deep domain expertise
  • Can reiterate points that you have been making with (sometimes it helps to come from someone else)
  • It can provide them with practice on talking to professionals in a given field
  • It can get them interested in a specific field
  • It brings the "real world" into the classroom
  • It strengthens ties between the business community and your school (hmmmm..remember those DonorsChoose projects you were looking to get funded?)
  • It helps students see the link between what they are studying and future careers

And the list could go on. And yet ask any teacher about this topic of outside speakers and you will inevitably hear stories of "businesspeople gone bad" who come to the classroom with their suits, PowerPoints and proceed to spend 50 minutes boring your students to tears. Their final slide: "Any questions?" is greeted with stunned silence from your students who grin knowing that they are only minutes from escaping this monotony. How do I know? How do I know? Well, let's just say I have a friend (his name rhymes with swim), who once was that "bad businessperson." 

So, I thought I would prepare a short email that you could send to any classroom guests to ensure that the experience is as positive for your students as it is for them. 

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Hello,

Thank you for volunteering your time to visit my class at Any High School later this month. The students are very excited for your visit and I wanted to share some information about my class as well as ideas that I have seen work well with our previous guests.

Provide information about your class here: # of students, grade level, socio-economic status, what students know about the topic that the guest presenter will be teaching, whether the students have access to laptops and wi-fi, length of class period, projector situation. I have had the students review your LinkedIn profile so they will be prepared with questions to ask you, which might be a great way to get the session started. 

I wanted to share with you what I have seen work really well with previous guests:

  • Story telling: students love to hear real-life examples of how having this financial knowledge has helped you or helped others. 
  • Activities: as you know, students love to learn by doing. Here are a few examples of activities that I have seen work very well with students:
    • An investor wanted to teach 9th graders in New York City about investing. He used a jar of jellybeans to do it. 
    • Budgeting with Roommates is a fan favorite from the NGPF activity library. 
    • I once saw a venture capitalist came in and divide the class into several groups. Each student in the group had a role to play; one was a VC, the other was a start-up entrepreneur, another was a college endowment. He then described what role each of these individuals played in the start-up ecosystem and asked a few questions to engage them. Role plays (with student participation) that capture the essence of your job, your industry, a key financial concept can be very effective. 
    • Kahoots are an extremely popular way to engage all students. You could use this at the end of your session to ensure that students understand the key points by developing a short 10-12 question quiz. Gift cards a very popular prize too...
  • PowerPoints: Most previous guests only include a minimum number of slides (if any at all) given students have limited attention spans. 
  • Key takeaways: It would be great if you could reiterate some of these key points that students have learned in the course already on your topic. Repetition helps. 

Thank you again for your commitment to our school community and please reach out if you have any additional questions.

Regards,

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Thanks to the educators who provided over 30 comments on FinLit Fanatics Group to my query about what to tell a guest to your personal finance class before they arrive:

Nicolas Manogue on key points the speaker should cover (while letting them know they will be evaluated too!):

  • Career Path...are they doing what they thought they would be doing when they were in high school?
  • Employment Skills...what are the qualities they see in achievers in their organization. I then ask them to be a story teller...those are attention getters and memorable...the good the bad the ugly of their topic...make it real world applicable.
  • I finally offer to help them create a short activity to use midway thru class...to break up the 48 minutes.
  • One last thing...I let them know students will evaluate and thank them via a Google Form.

I have 25 speakers over 18 days during my 90 day semester class from bankers to car dealers to funeral home directors and they stay all day.

Suzy Hirsch had an interesting idea on how to bring insurance to life:

Story telling is epic . When we covered insurance in class with a business volunteer sharing the teaching, the students had post-it’s and wrote down real life story examples of events that fell under the insurance types listed on the board in a tree branch design . Branches represented types of insurance and were labeled. The student stories were very helpful and fun to be included in the speaker type lesson.

Joey Running on the importance of the teacher remaining engaged:

I would also advise for teachers to be just as engaged in the presentation to provide role modeling. I think it is important for the classroom teacher to invite a presenter in as an active learning experience not an opportunity to have a break. Be ready to ask the questions students do not know to ask, walk around the room to help students be "present" during the session.

Charles Kafoglis on the importance of breaking the ice:

Must have a sense of humor. Teacher can help them upfront with how to break the ice. This is make or break in my opinion - if they can break the ice somehow the class opens up for them...else it can be painful to watch.

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.