Hosting a guest speaker at your homeschool group (or any student group!) is a wonderful way to bring learning to life and enrich a curriculum. But, finding a guest speaker can be hard. Here are my best tips on successfully finding and hosting a guest speaker for your homeschool group.
Finding a Great Guest Speaker
- Leverage family: Think about members of your own family that may have a skill set, hobby, or career that may align with your curriculum. Family members are most likely the easiest to leverage for guest speaker requests. (Did you see the cool project my mom did when she spoke to our group?)
- Check local colleges: College students and graduate students are often super excited to share their new-found knowledge. They are also much more likely to volunteer for free!
- Network with parents: The parents of students in your homeschool group all have skills and hobbies. Many of them may be willing to speak or know someone that may be willing!
- Talk to people at your church: This is often an untapped network of help! So many times our church families can be great resources in bringing professionals and talented hobbyists together to engage with our students!
- Look up local professional organizations: If you are looking for a speaker on a particular topic, check with professional organizations that are within your interest area. These organizations are treasures troves of talented guest speakers. (We will be doing a virtual field trip this year with a weather station!)
- Network at your kid’s extracurricular activities: When you are out and about, talk to people about what kind of speaker you are looking for. You never know who is going to know the perfect guest speaker for your group!
- Use technology to cover the distance: Sometimes the perfect guest speaker lives on the other side of the county. Sometimes you have a global pandemic (ugh, lol!) and you need to use a little tech! Don’t shy away from a presentation just because of distance. Next week, we will be enjoying a virtual Passover presentation coming to us all the way from Oregon!
It is important to set clear expectations for both your students and the presenter. Making sure everybody is on the same page will allow everyone to feel comfortable and have a good experience.
Five Student Expectations
- Address for respect: Make sure your students know what to call your presenter. I feel students that are taught to use proper titles like Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Dr. are more likely to give the presenter the respect they deserve.
- Give some background: Let your students know how you connected with the presenter and about their professional background. Setting your guest speaker up as an expert will pique your student’s interest.
- Questions and answers: Will this be a free discussion? Will it be a lecture with questions at the end? Will students be asked to raise their hands and interact with questions and comments from the presenter? Giving students clear expectations with help manage behavior and cut down on off-topic comments and stories.
- Engaging: Most of the time guest speakers provide experiential elements to their presentation. Make sure students understand how to handle special objects and look at displays. Talk to students about what they can and cannot touch. If food will be part of the demonstrations, talk to students about trying new foods and how to politely decline the food, if needed.
- Show gratitude: Finally, talk to students about showing gratitude. Will students clap at the end of the presentation? Will students write thank you cards? Remind students to especially express verbal thanks as the speaker is leaving.
Guest Speaker Expectations
- Consider the basics: Set clear expectations about the amount of time you would like them to speak and the location of the speaking engagement. Talk about the equipment that will be available and the supplies you will have on hand. Also, ask what they will be bringing with them and if they will need assistance getting things into space. Finally, let them know where they will park and how to get to the presentation space.
- Break down the group: Give your guest speaker an understanding of the group they will be addressing. Talking about ages, general academic ability, and student interests. You might consider also talking about potential pitfalls like students with disabilities or those with behavior challenges.
- Be clear about compensation: If you are paying your guest speaker, be very clear about how much, by what method, and when they will be paid. Nothing is more awkward for presenters than asking about money. If you will not be compensating them, but very clear about the fact that your engagement is a volunteer situation.
- Set behavioral standards: Let your presenter know how problem behavior from students will be dealt with. Also, be clear of any special expectations you have of them. For example: do they need to dress in a certain way or avoid using any particular language?
- Do a technology test run: Wheather the presenter is joining you via technology or they are using technology in their presentation, a test run is very important. Also, always have a back-up plan in place, if your preferred technology does not work. Don’t let tech-trouble ruin a great presentation.
Prepare For Disaster
Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes your guest speaker turns out to not be a good speaker after all. Sometimes the technology does not work. Sometimes that one kid just goes a little nuts!
Life happens people! Keep it real, but have a plan. Always have a technology back-up plan. Be ready to jump in and help with classroom discipline. Make sure you have back-up activities if the speaker goes too short or (heaven forbid) does not show up. Finally, have interview questions ready for the guest speaker if you need to turn the experience into a Q & A.
But, don’t let these cautions scare you away. These considerations far outweigh the benefits of inviting a guest speaker to your homeschool group.
Making Things Real
The benefits of inviting a guest speaker into your homeschool group are vast. Guest speakers make things come to life. No longer are textbooks words on a page, but they are things that HAPPEN. They are jobs people do, places people have been, and memories people have made.
What has been the best guest speaker you have invited into your homeschool group? OR What was the best guest speaker your heard when you were a student?