By Angela Gardner, OFLA PR and Advocacy Committee Chairperson, Spanish Teacher, Ross High School
With a new school year already underway, language educators can start gearing up their program recruitment and advocacy efforts early on to maximize their reach. If you’re new to the education profession or looking for ways to enhance your program, here are some tips to support your efforts to recruit students and to celebrate the benefits of language learning in your building.
Tip 1: Grab your camera
Snap photos of your smiling, engaged students at every opportunity: during your best TPR activities, dancing activities, the crafty moments, the food events, club and service activities, honor society initiations, and more. Post these photos, and corresponding event information, visibly in display cases in your building during National Foreign Language week in early March, or at any time of year. You can also support these displays with displays of student work. Add these photos to brochures, pamphlets, and other presentations that are shared with students or parents when it’s time to sign up for courses (more on that in Tip 3).
Tip 2: Maximize human resources
You know your students are already discussing your class with their friends–why not make the most of it? Select some of your most enthusiastic learners to serve as language ambassadors for your program. You can appoint them to speak in homerooms during the week leading up to course selection, at Open House nights or Freshman Orientations. Younger students look up to their older peers and cling to their every word. If you can build a positive reputation around your classroom through positive representation from your students, it will go a long way to make your program appealing to younger students. Pro tip: prepare your student representatives in advance to talk about their favorite activities or memories in the class, what they are most proud of learning, and why they like the class. Additionally, prepare them for the fact that audience members almost inevitably want them to show off their language skills, and may ask them to say something in the target language, so it’s good to have a brief phrase or two to rattle off to satiate that request from the crowd.
Tip 3: Strike while the iron is hot
Just prior to course selection, use available resources to advertise for your courses. You can combine tips 1 and 2 and have students make a commercial to be played during homerooms if your school runs airs its own video or announcements show and will air your commercial. Make an informational slideshow for students and parents, and share it on your learning management system. Here’s a sample: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Y04iWGZGRG4U3tgTQ6kF36We04sJpvRkWBfoMLIfAPY/edit?usp=sharing In this sample, we used our school colors for the background and text, and included photos of our students from Tip 1 to show how much fun our courses are! In the presentation, we included course descriptions and information on clubs and activities so that our students and their parents would be informed. If you read through, you’ll notice that the course descriptions for each level read similarly across languages–we’re working towards the same goals–cultural and linguistic proficiency!
Tip 4: Keep them smiling
You might have noted that Tip 1’s success hinges on not only having a camera available but also smiling, engaged students. If you and your students are not having any fun in your learning experiences, it may be time to try some new methods like Total Physical Response (Storytelling); making culturally authentic crafts or foods; trying culturally authentic dancing, hand clapping games, or songs; reading exciting authentic stories; listening to authentic pop music in the target language; or more.
Tip 5: Share the wealth
If you are going to all the trouble of carefully planning these engaging, exciting lessons, don’t forget to share their results with your colleagues in your building! Send a plate of a culturally authentic dish to your colleague or an administrator, or invite them to join you for a TPR lesson. A note on the dancing: In my experience, the music alone seems to draw my colleagues to my classroom door. I like to invite them in and let them dance along with our class. My students and I get a kick out of seeing a teacher from another discipline engage in the learning activity!
Tip 6: Inform your clients
Language educators know that the benefits of learning languages reach so far beyond just being able to identify objects with new words! Take a cue from educational blogger Colleen Lee and inform your students (and their parents and administrators) of the soft skill outcomes of language learning through classroom newsletters and open house events, for example.
These tips will help you to build your program, serving as advocacy tools to recruit new students that will be excited to learn in your classroom. What are you waiting for? Start your brochure, a new lesson plan, or seeking out your language ambassadors today!