Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Advice from the trenches - Part 1

I've done a lot of school visits over the years. Like anything else, I've learned some things the hard way. For anyone new to school visits - or anticipating doing them - I thought I'd pass along some of the more nitty-gritty advice from the voice of experience:

  • Always follow up with your contact person one last time just prior to the day of the visit to remind her of arrival time and equipment needs.
  • Ask about any parking problems you might anticipate. (Some schools have funky parking lots with sections reserved just for teachers or with gates that lock after a certain hour. Urban schools sometimes have limited parking and nightmarish street parking.)
  • When you see the sign that says Buses Only 2:30 to 3:00 - do not park there if you are doing an all-day visit - unless you want to be waiting for thirty minutes while 25 school buses load 1248 kids before you can leave.
  • Keep an energy bar, trail mix, Snickers, apple, Twinkies - whatever - in your bag. You never know what you can expect for lunch. I've had everything from potluck lunches prepared by parents to a pear and brie panini to nothing.
  • Bring your own water - but don't store it with your laptop unless you have really good insurance.
  • Always check in at the office first. Sign the visitor book. If there is a visitor's badge or sticker, be sure to wear one.
  • Don't be surprised if the receptionist in the office doesn't know who you are or why you are there. That information isn't always related to others. Make sure you have your school contact name with you so you can tell the receptionist who is in charge.
  • Leave plenty of time to set up any technical equipment in case something goes wrong - but make sure your contact person knows you will be arriving early so someone will be there to meet you. (Trust me on this one. It's a bummer to arrive 30 minutes early and there is no one there to help you get started setting up.) It's also a good idea to request that your contact person alert the office receptionist that you are coming early.
  • Bring your own extension cords and power strips (with your name on them), batteries, adaptors, etc.
  • Have Backup Plans A, B, C, and D in case something goes wrong with technical equipment. I bring my own laptop and projector, but I also have the presentation on flashdrives and on "the cloud" or Dropbox.
  • Bring duct tape or gaffer's tape to tape down cords. Trust me on this one - you will have 200 kids walking over your cords and the odds are one of them is going send your computer or projector crashing to the floor (and you'll need that really good insurance that you wish you had).
  • Some schools prefer that you not use the students' restrooms and that you use one designated specifically for adults. Ask.

Part 2 of this post tomorrow....


Anonymous said...

This is incredibly helpful. I should write about the school visit I had where I was meeting with fifth graders all day - I assumed it was four sessions of 5th graders, but it was 106 5th graders from 8:30-2:30, with parents and teachers there to help, but it was kind of traumatic. I wanted a bullhorn. I divided them into tables and we did writing exercises all day - we even had the Diane Arbus table, the Frida Kahlo table, the Vincent Van Gogh table...I came and crawled into bed and didn't speak for hours. Thanks for this list. I'm printing it out.

All best

Barbara O'Connor said...

Boy, I can relate to crawling in bed and not speaking for hours!! Talk about a brain drain, huh? That visit sounds horrible!! But we learn as we go along, ya know!

Glad you found this helpful. I'll be posting a few more entries.

Sounds like you at least can think on your feet - quick thinking with the various tables.