Hosting a Witness to History guest speaker in your classroom requires thoughtful preparation. After you submit your request, we will contact you to discuss it.
Here are additional things you can do to ensure a successful visit:
- Contact the speaker personally when you are in a calm, quiet environment. Introduce yourself, and give the speaker details about your class, such as the grade/age level, number of students, and what the students have been learning that relates to his or her lived experience.
- Give the speaker a phone number where he or she can reach you.
- Confirm the speaker’s travel arrangements to your school. Some of our speakers are older, and do not drive or take public transportation; ask about your speaker’s travel needs, as we can help you arrange appropriate transportation. Make sure to let us, as well as the speaker, know the exact location of the entrance to your school, and if he or she will need clearance for security.
- Make sure that your students are learning about the historical events surrounding the speaker’s experience.
- Remind your students of the delicate nature of the sharing involved in this classroom visit, and the need to be sensitive to the ways in which the history they’ve been studying is both very difficult and very personal for the speaker.
- Prepare your students to ask questions. When speakers take the time to visit and share so deeply, they want to be able to answer questions and engage with your students.
The Day of the Visit
- Make sure you or someone you assign is waiting outside of the school to greet the speaker when he or she arrives and accompany him or her to the classroom. Likewise, someone should escort him or her back outside at the end of the visit.
- Please make sure the room he or she will be speaking in is accessible. Some of our speakers are advanced in age, and cannot deal with multiple flights of stairs. Please utilize an elevator whenever possible; if stairs must be used, make sure the speaker is accompanied both up and down, and allow ample time for this process.
- Have a chair, table or desk, and water ready for the speaker.
- Remind the speaker of exactly how much time he or she has in the classroom.
- Keep track of time during the presentation and be sure to leave a significant time (20-30) minutes for Questions and Answers; let the speaker know when he or she has only a few minutes remaining. Speakers do not always keep track of time themselves. As a moderator, this is your job. It is always okay to interrupt the speaker in the interest of making sure there is enough time for questions.
- Help facilitate students’ questions. Trust that most students’ questions are uniquely insightful/ don’t limit students from asking questions that make you uncomfortable, but use your professional judgment to assist this process and step in when necessary. Another option is for students to write questions before the class, after they have read or talked about the speaker’s bio.
- Often the speaker will not be able to hear the students; you may need to act as an intermediary. If your student group is large, please arrange for a microphone for the speaker’s use.
- Limit distractions and interruptions as much as possible. Please be sure that your students are prepared to be respectful, and use your professional judgment to manage students who are not being attentive and respectful.
- Please make sure someone thanks the speaker for sharing his/her story before the end of the visit.
- Make sure to plan time for students to reflect on the speaker’s visit.
- Consider sending the speaker something as a thank you for his or her visit. Speakers especially love to receive correspondence from students expressing what they gained from the experience. We can provide you the mailing address of any speaker.
- Facing History and Ourselves would also welcome any narrative accounts you are willing to share, including photos or student responses; these materials can be mailed to the address listed at the bottom of this page.