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 or offended 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. Put your name on everything. Schools will have lots of that stuff, too, and mix-ups occur.
- 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 CDs. I also have my presentation on Dropbox in case I need to download it.
- Bring duct 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 to send your computer or projector crashing to the floor (and you'll need that really good insurance that you wish you had). BUT, also bring painters' tape in case you are in a gymnasium. The custodian will be unhappy if your duct tape pulls up the finish on the floor. (Yes, the voice of experience.)
- Some schools prefer that you not use the students' restrooms and that you use one designated specifically for adults (and, um, you'll probably want to, anyway.) Ask.
[This post recycled from 2008 cause I'm a cheater like that.]
PART TWO COMING SOON