Getting the most out of your guest speaker

Last week I hosted a guest speaker for the grade 9 and 10 students at our school.  The speaker was an alumnus of our school, having graduated in 2006, when she won the school’s service award.  She had recently volunteered on a Peace Boat journey and wanted to share her experiences, and encourage students to make volunteering part of their life after they left school.

When she first related her Peace Boat experience, it sounded like a world trip, a great travel experience.  The more I listened to her, though, the more depth this experience seemed to offer.  There were a range of possible themes the students would be able to glean from her talk.  So I agreed to let her speak to the students and worked with her on the content and quality of her presentation.

The talk was reasonably successful from the perspective of many students: there was a lot of adventure, and parts of the world they had never seen before. They also heard of the great diversity of humanity, history and geography that lies beyond school, and Japan.

However, the more discerning audience members, the teachers, saw the speech as little more than account of a great world trip.  I was disheartened to hear this, but understand this sentiment.

What I have realized, when asking somebody else to speak in future, I need to:

  • ensure the speaker and I overtly agree on the ultimate goals of the speech
  • make these goals clear
  • ensure the speaker does not deviate too far from these goals, and, if necessary
  • ask another listener to come in and give constructive feedback in terms of the content and goals

About eadurkin

Originally a HS Mathematics teacher from New Zealand, currently working as Associate Principal in the Secondary School at Canadian Academy, an international school in Kobe, Japan. Married with two children.
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