Prior to departure when I was researching as much as I could about this position, I came across some excellent suggestions on how to communicate your hometown to your new students. Sadly I can’t recall where this was posted, otherwise I would happily point you in that direction. So let me paraphrase here:
- Your alma mater
Do you have any contacts at your high school? Are any of your friends currently teaching there? Maybe some of your old teachers are still working there. Same goes for college or university. Regardless, make the most of your status as an alum and request some materials. Pencils or pens, or a few copies of the school newspaper. As you know, I was able to tap a friend who is teaching Spanish at a local high school and we were able to launch a pen pal program. Ask me about this process for more information. I am now absolutely full of ideas and random experiences thanks to this effort 🙂
- Local businesses
The corner bookshop, the local candy store, the tourist boutique. You would be surprised how many people will consider donating goods or information to you — all you have to do is ask. In a post from this past summer I gave a shout out to the glorious Just Born, Inc. – purveyors of chewy goodness and located in beautiful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I can’t tell you how much my students flipped out over the candy and the idea that someone in America sent us such a gift. One of the 1ESO classes just made the most excellent Thank-You cards and I will send them home to the company, with a photo of our class.
- Local non profit organizations
For the same reason that local businesses are useful here, so are the non profits. Maybe you work by a museum or a private foundation that is specific to your town / city / region / state. Ask for some postcards or promotion material. Remember that you are the first and (maybe) only point of contact for these kids in the United States. You are a real, live American and they will be fascinated with everything you say. Let them know there is more to the US than Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas (these are the top three in most of my conversations with students).
- Local government
You can request maps, brochures and other information about your city / state from your local offices. For example, as a resident of Bethlehem Township, I was able to go to the municipal offices and request this information. In many cases these offices now have websites, and you can send a request for info.
* Use a form letter for your requests – this will make your life a lot easier. Tell them who you are, where you’re going and why you think their product / information would help you / your students.
* Whenever possible, send your letter or email directly to a Human Being. Sending an email or a hard copy letter to “firstname.lastname@example.org” will not get you speedy results, if any. Spend some time on the web looking for an actual contact person or an administrative assistant (think Public Relations Dept). Do not hesitate to call the business!
* Give yourself enough time. I included a deadline in my letter to the businesses for several reasons: 1) I knew I would be running around like a fool before my departure, 2) businesses are usually full of busy people, 3) allows time for follow-up and assorted pestering.
* And you say you’ll mail it to me? GREAT. If you can get the business to mail directly to your school – do it. It will save your (my) parents from sending a very heavy (expensive) box full of donations (400 boxes of Mike & Ikes).
* Say thank you! Keep track of who you are writing to, including the contact information. That way when / if you receive donations you can acknowledge them appropriately.