When I was a new teacher, I was not much older than some of my students. I was 23 when I began my teaching career (right), and I taught government and economics to seniors. I even had a student who was 20 in one of my classes (“back in the day,” you could remain in school until you graduated or turned 21, whichever came first).
In the middle of one of my classes, a young man asked me a rather unusual and inappropriate question. He asked, “Mrs. Ingram, have you ever thought about growing a mustache?” I was stunned, of course, by the strangeness of that question, and I even had a moment of terror about my daily grooming habits. Maybe I needed to do something about the dark facial hair above my lips. After a brief moment to gather my wits, I said, “No, but if I do, I’ll call your mother for tips.”
You can imagine the pandemonium that broke out in my class. That young man was rebuked, and I had won a rather hollow victory over a student at the expense of his parent. I learned over the years that sarcasm has no place in the classroom, and whatever you do as a teacher, you must ally yourself with the parents of your students.
This anecdote brings me to the subject of the importance of “recruiting” the parents of your students before you even think about enrolling their children in your educational tour. The parents of your students must be thoroughly informed about your tour, and they must be assured of the fact that you will take good care of their children while traveling abroad. It is an act of faith for parents to turn their children over to a teacher and send them overseas on an educational tour.
By holding a recruitment meeting, you can make a presentation that will put the minds of parents at ease and perhaps persuade many of them to enroll their children on your tour. That face-to-face contact is more important than the quality of your recruitment materials, although I have had parents who enroll their children for a tour without attending a recruitment meeting. Make your recruitment meeting for parents your official “kickoff” for your tour recruitment “season.”
Here are some tried-and-true tips for a successful recruitment meeting:
• You do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your recruitment meetings. Use what’s in EF’s blue, recruitment box to help and guide you. I give the quality of the recruitment materials a grade of A+ (and this is an unsolicited opinion!). The PowerPoint recruitment presentation is excellent, and you can customize the slides to fit your own tour. (I used it at a recent recruitment meeting. What a timesaver that was for me!)
• Advertise your recruitment meeting at school and elsewhere. I use the daily announcements sheet at school, and I put up the EF country-specific posters around school and in my public library.
• You can hold your meeting at school or another location, especially if your tour is not school sponsored. Try to meet at a time so parents can attend after work. I use the meeting room in my public library, and I meet after 5:30 p.m.
• Create an agenda for your meeting, and distribute it to parents when they enter the room. Plan for your meeting to last for one hour or less.
• Ask parents to sign in with their names and contact information, or distribute index cards for them to use. You should contact all parents who attend your meeting a few days later to let them know that you appreciate their attendance and to ask them to contact you if they have any questions about the tour.
• You can play music from the country (or countries) you plan to visit or create tabletop displays of information about your destination and of the information from EF. I recently used a trifold display about travel to England (right) that I made for a district instructional fair a few years ago.
• I open my meetings with an enthusiastic introduction about myself and about EF, and I present a slideshow about the places we will be visiting. Because your first-choice tour will not be confirmed until later, just be general about your travel itinerary.
• I provide my own testimonial about why I travel with EF Educational Tours. Every year, I return home from a tour as a “satisfied customer.” I also have another reason why I travel with EF that I share with parents at the recruitment meeting. After my group returned home from my first EF spring break tour in 1994, I made all of my students write an essay about their tour experience for a contest that was held by EF. One of my students, Victor Li, won that national contest, and his essay was published in the enrollment booklets for the next travel season. I was so proud of him and the fact that EF selected one of my students.
• Be prepared to make a strong case about the important of educational travel for students (and of the importance of early enrollment).
• Your presentation can be in a question-and-answer format. You can go over EF’s Booking Conditions and be sure to answer these questions:
My parents (or grandparents, in many cases) are the best “advertisements” for my tours. They are the ones who will be making the financial commitment to EF, and they are the ones I keep “front-and-center” in my pre-tour and on-tour planning from the time I have a recruitment meeting to the time I bring their children home. When they make the decision to go on tour themselves, then I feel doubly blessed to have both the students and the parents!
Two of my favorite “tour parents,” Barry and Bridgit McLeod (above), are former students of mine. They have sent all three of their sons (who were in my classes) on tour with me, and they have been on tour with me several times as well. I asked Bridgit if she could remember the first recruitment meeting she attended: “If I remember correctly, during our very first information session, I think you had a projector set up at the library with a slideshow of past tour photos. That, coupled with your information about your own personal traveling abroad experiences, sealed the deal for us. The pictures, and your explanations and descriptions of places visited, had a vivid impact on our family. The camaraderie and excitement was very evident, and we wanted our sons to share in that experience.”
My tour recruitment season is not just limited to a single recruitment meeting. I plan to have another meeting for my 2012 tour next August after the new school year begins. I have parent conferences this week, and I will have my tour recruitment materials on display along with some Celtic music playing in my classroom because Scotland is included in my 2012 travel itinerary.
My new favorite Scottish singer is Dougie MacLean. My daughter, Ruth, had a chance to meet him when he recently performed at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina, where she works as the development coordinator. She sent me his latest CD. His music certainly motivates me to recruit for my 2012 tour to England and Scotland.
I hope your next recruitment meeting for parents goes well for you, and I hope you find some music to motivate you, too.