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I usually like the foreign language teachers in my school. Same for the music people, the drama department, and everyone in the family/consumer sciences wing. But not this week. This week we’re fighting.
I should explain: we’re actually fighting over students. See, it’s registration week, and we need to keep our numbers high. Large registration numbers represent student demand for your classes. Demand shows the vitality of your department in the only way some administrators understand. For some teachers, it means more budget money, and for others, it validates all the work they are doing on a day-to-day basis.
For me, large registration numbers used to mean that the program I was trying to build was growing the way I wanted and needed it to. Now, ten years later, the big numbers of kids wanting to take an art class shows that we are continuing to do things right (at least most of the time). I want my department to continue to grow and continue to thrive. So I continue to recruit.
Make sure current kids are coming back to take more classes–this is your easiest “sell.” If kids aren’t sure what they might want to take next year, offer them specific suggestions of what you think might work for their interests and strengths.
Ask your art kids who they know that might want to take art. Bring them into the room to see what’s going on. Have your current kids help convince their friends that art is the place to be.
Ask your counseling department to talk to kids about art or suggest it as an option for kids who don’t know which classes to take. You never know when a kind word or a well-placed candy bar might get people started on talking up your program.
Hang posters in the hall. Be creative. Have fun. Make them colorful and grab some attention. But never, ever disparage another program (e.g., “Take Art–It’s so much better than Drama!”) This only leads to animosity and hard feelings.
Put on your used car salesperson shoes, polish up your 5-second elevator pitch, and get to work. Yeah, they might look at you weirdly, but they were going to do that anyway. They’re high schoolers. Just take a few seconds to talk, find out about them, and see if they’re interested. You never know when you might find a gem.
You know those doodles we love to see on the margins of the page? Your colleagues notice them too. And no matter how they feel about those drawings creeping over the edges of the paper, they remember them. Ask around and see if there’s any hidden talent in their classes of which you are unaware.
Recruiting can be a vital part of building up a new program or keeping a successful program going. It may not always be glamorous, but for many of us, it is incredibly important.
What does your enrollment look like? Do you recruit kids for your classes?
What recruiting strategies have worked for you?