On November 21, right before the Thanksgiving break, if you walked into Angela Scioli’s trailer, you would be taken aback by the noise. It was very loud, and there was an air of excitement– as Guest Speaker Day had been a great buildup, starting on the very first day of school.
“I think [Guest Speaker Day] brings a realness to what we study, and that’s important,” said Scioli, who teaches an Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics class at Leesville.
Her government classes recently had a unique experience: They had the chance to meet the real people who are involved with our government. Scioli worked to contact many government officials, both elected and bureaucratic, and there was quite the turnout. In each of her three classes, there were six government workers, some even staying all day to talk to each class.
One speaker was Amily McCool, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Coalition for Domestic Violence. “I came because I thoroughly enjoy talking with students and helping to share knowledge with them. In my work, I always supervise interns from the schools of social work and law so speaking to high school students about the policy work I do in the domestic violence field to educate students and potentially even inspire one or two is always an opportunity that I won’t pass up,” said McCool in an email.
In her response, she outlined the basic purpose for Guest Speaker Day: to inspire and educate government students in a unique way.
It is the same reason why many science classes revolve around science labs: hands on learning promotes student excitement and learning in certain subjects. Hearing these speakers allows students to connect the information they learn in the class to the real world.
Guest Speaker Day is a unique way for Scioli to promote more interest in her subject and connect it to the real world. Simply lecturing students on a subject becomes boring, so teachers resort to other ways to gain students’ attention. In a world that moves faster than ever, with students running from activity to activity after school on their packed schedules, sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher drone on tends to become monotonous to most students.
Guest Speaker Day could also be compared to study abroad programs in high school and college. Students that choose to study abroad choose so because they want to diversify their experiences and receive a hands on experience like the one that Guest Speaker Day provides. North Carolina State University encourages students to study abroad while earning their degree. “Studying marine science at the Great Barrier Reef, architecture in Europe, or environmental sciences in the Amazon rainforest provides new meaning to the typical classroom experience not possible on campus at NC State,” said their website. The opportunities provided by Guest Speaker Day are almost identical, the opportunity to experience and talk to the government officials often only talked about provides “new meaning to the typical classroom experience”.
The students agree as well; Kelsey Holt is a sophomore in Angela Scioli’s fourth period class. “My expectations for Guest Speaker Day was that it would be a good educational experience and to learn a lot about how government works,” said Holt. Afterwards, she concluded that Guest Speaker Day was indeed “… a good learning experience.”
During her interview, she also mentioned that through Guest Speaker Day she learned things she may have not otherwise. There were certain facts about the jobs represented that could not be taught in class, because nobody knew them. In this way Guest Speaker Day presents its success by itself; through these experiences students gain access to knowledge not available before.
Afterwards, both guests and Scioli expressed their hopes for the impact that this experience will have on the students.
“I hope that the students have a clearer understanding of the ways that policy work plays out in the ‘real world’ and how macro interventions can have large societal impacts. It would be a bonus if any of the students had a spark ignited after hearing about any of the speakers work,” said McCool over email.
“I hope [Guest Speaker Day] will broaden their vision in terms of paths their lives can take going forward,” said Scioli. She went on to explain that she believes Guest Speaker Day can open students eyes to the many, many jobs in government.
Overall, experiences such as Guest Speaker Day should be continued, as they provide unique, lasting experiences that can be used in a positive way to enhance learning beyond the classroom.