This post is adapted from the STEM Guest Speakers feature.
Well-planned, well-spoken guest speakers in the classroom are the greatest gift when it comes to visitors. While there are researched benefits to inviting strong speakers to share with your students, my motive for bringing in guests was to challenge stereotypes, to further offer context for the real-world, and to nudge along the imaginings of my students’ own futures. Like any good lesson, to ensure my goals were met and my students engaged, I needed a plan.
But, What Do You Actually Do?
Fortunately for us, business and financial jobs are top of mind for students. My students have visited bank branches and ATMs, and they can recognize that Mrs. Harvey is the owner of the corner convenience store or that the Jackson family runs a few local restaurants in town.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, occupations in the financial activities sector, which includes banking, small business, insurance and real estate, are growing faster than average and are expected to increase 10 percent from 2016 to 2026. But do students understand the ins and outs of their community members’ careers? Do they see themselves in these roles?
Guest speakers can dig into their particular perspective about what the world of business and finance is actually like, what these career paths look like, and offer insights into the fun, creative, and analytical aspects of their jobs.
If your students are already learning about careers with FutureSmart, Venture – Entrepreneurial Expedition or EVERFI – Financial Literacy, consider your access to local business owners, food truck owners, bankers, marketing managers, and event planners. Are these people staples in your community, reviving neighborhoods, or launching something totally new to your city or town? These are easy places to start that will hook student interest. You’ll find a brief list of careers aligned to the financial section and EVERFI programs at the end of the article.
The Right Timing
I learned that carefully selected, well-timed speakers can provide depth for a unit or lesson. Rather than finding yourself at the mercy of a school career day or holiday to locate a guest, consider scheduling one speaker per unit, theme, or quarter. This will allow you to both make a meaningful choice for your students’ learning and give your speaker stronger context for their own presentation.
If you’re struggling to find a local match who fits your window of opportunity, consider video conferencing or scheduling a field trip to a local bank or business.
Setting the Stage
Prepping the key players (your speaker and students) is the most critical component to a successful visit.
For Your Speaker: In initial communications with your speaker, be clear about your expectations, what in particular would be important for your students to learn, and information about your students and unit. Broad prep could lead to broad speaking points, which often leads to a lack of engagement. Let your speaker know any options for technology like a slide deck or their access to certain internet sites (video in particular.)
With Your Students: Schedule time to “introduce” your guest about a week before they join your class. Begin by sharing highlights of the speaker’s profile with your students. Spend time as a group brainstorming potential questions to ask during their visit. What do they want to take away from the experience?
Getting the Most Out of the Experience:
Be sure to debrief with your class and ask students to reflect on what they learned from the speaker or if anything new sparked their interest. Other than your typical thank you note, how can you best extend the relationship with a guest speaker and keep them coming back each year?
With younger classrooms, consider writing a class letter with any lingering questions quarterly. This will help your speaker stick with your students long after they’ve been present in your room. For our high school students, access to mentors is a persistent need. Are there particular students who would be interested in staying connected? If your speaker doesn’t mind, encourage students to send emails with any career or higher education questions in the future.
Speaker Careers Aligned to Financial Education Programs:
There are careers for all types within the financial sector. Do you see your students’ interests or personalities highlighted in these careers?
- Fundraiser: Fundraisers organize events and campaigns to raise money or donations for organizations. They may also support promotional materials and marketing awareness efforts.
- Entrepreneur: A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative or risk.
- Real Estate Appraiser: Appraisers estimate the value on land and buildings usually before they are sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed.
- Financial Planner: Financial planners work with individuals to meet short- and long-term financial goals.
- Banker: Bankers provide financial services to individuals and businesses, such as payment services, loans, and credit.
- Auditor: A person authorized to examine accounts and accounting records, compare the charges with the vouchers, verify balance sheet and income items, and state the result.
- Stock Broker: Brokers work for investment firms to find clients and sell them securities and commodities, like stocks and bonds. They must also maintain an extensive knowledge of stock performance and match investments to client needs.
Loan Officer: Loan officers evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses. They review financial documents and apply formulas to assess the likelihood of loan repayment.
Amber Osuba is the Senior Marketing Manager for K-12. Prior to this role, Amber served as a Senior Implementation Manager supporting educators and districts across Pennsylvania and Maryland for three years. She is a former first grade STEM teacher and curriculum lead. You’ll find her at EVERFI’s national conference booths asking teachers to grab swag, take a selfie and tag @EVERFI.