Traveling to Europe with my students is the very best thing that I do. I love my job as a 10th grade world history teacher and as a varsity soccer coach; I’m truly blessed. But taking students to Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Norway with EF Tours have been some of the very best moments of my life. Having taken trips for the past seven years, I’ve usually relied on the students to spread the word about my trips, to create the buzz necessary to bring in new students to my trips. I’ve found, however, that the challenges created by the economic downturn of the last few years requires that I become more creative when recruiting. Here are some of the strategies that I’ve developed to build excitement to help recruitment.
- Movies – During my trips I tend to take thousands of pictures. With these pictures, I create short movies using iMovie. Not everyone has a Mac, so I also recommend Windows Moviemaker. A free website called Vimeo allows me to download HD movies that can be played on big screen. I make sure my students know how to find the videos and ask my school provide links to our school’s website. Because the movies are in HD, the students are able to expand the videos onto large computer screens. I’ve found that the music you choose really helps supplement the mood of the movie. Here’s an example of one of my recruitment videos.
- Facebook Pages – Facebook Pages are a great way to share pictures and information about your trip without “friending” your students. The students are able to “Like” the page, view the pictures, view the videos, and in some cases become friends with my tour guides before we even leave on the trip. My favorite tour guide of all time remains friends with many of my former students on Facebook.
- Message In A Bottle – Before I open up enrollment to a wider group of students, I like to send out a special invitation to the students with whom I’ve already traveled, and to some that I already know would be great for my trips. This year I created messages in bottles for my students and put the bottles in the students’ homerooms, leaving them there to be discovered. The bottles were made to look like they had floated up on our Florida shores all the way from Greece. I filled the bottle with Greek “Evil Eye” beads that I bought at a beading store, and fashioned the corks so that when they were pulled out, a note fell out of the bottle asking the students to stop by my room to receive a packet of information, which included a dvd of a video I had made. The bottles were a huge success. The kids were very excited to receive the gift. One student told me, “Mr. Milsten, you really know how to make an invitation.” There was a downside to my gift bottles. A couple of my students were clearly upset at not receiving the invitation. The students who were upset about not receiving the bottles were actually students that I would love to travel with, so needless to say, I gave them invitations the next day. Next time I will try to be less obvious with the delivery of the invitations.
(Editor’s note: William Milsten is the Dean of Students of the Upper School at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Florida. Like just about every other teacher he knows, he actually wears a lot of hats at school. Along with being in charge of the student body, he teaches three classes of AP World History and one section of Ottoman History. He also coaches the Boys Varsity Soccer Team. But of all the many things that he does at Trinity Prep, the thing that he enjoys the most, the thing that makes him feel like he is at his very best, is travelling with students. His favorite part of the year is those weeks he spends showing students Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Norway. EF Tours has helped him make this part of his life happen. )