Jennifer Ochoa is a Spanish teacher from Santo High School in Santo, Texas and a first-time ACIS Group Leader. She plans to travel with her students to Spain and France for the first time in July of 2016. Coming from a small school (under 500 students), she faced some difficult challenges organizing a trip abroad for her students. She used some creative techniques to overcome those challenges, so we asked her to share some insights from her experience:
As a means to have your students take ownership over paying for part of their trip, you have them “sign a contract”. What does that contract entail?
As for my “contract” with the students, I explain to them that this trip is a trip of a lifetime. If it’s something they really want to do, they can’t just expect their parents to pay for everything. Most of their parents probably will, but it’s always good to let kids know that money doesn’t fall from trees.
I tell them the most important thing to do is to ask themselves if this trip is really what they want. If it’s what they want, then I ask them what they would be willing to do to get it. I tell them that they can work and help their parents pay for the trip. I tell them about fundraising and scholarships, and how they can help with their trip. At that point, I leave the student with the thought that their parents need to know they are committed to the trip. If they show their parents initiative, and that they are willing to get a job or fundraise, it shows the parents maturity. Parents are more willing to pay for something that their child wants enough to work for it. From that point, it’s up to the child to show their parents those things.
Coming from a small school, it must have been a challenge to register over 25 students. How do you win over so many students and their parents?
As for having a large group with a lot of parents, it’s really based on the fact that I am at a small school and am in contact with those students daily. I have built relationships with them and they trust me, therefore, their parents trust me. I really care about the kids, and it’s not about getting a trip out of it. I want kids to go that really want to go. It makes for a better group. If students are committed, they will be more likely to endure till the end, parents too.
So forming personal relationships with your students was key?
If I were at a large school, and only knew 20% of the students, it would be less likely for me to have as many as I do. Relationships are key, whether they like you or not. That may sound silly, but kids care about who is in charge of them. I also make sure the parents know that their kid’s safety if my #1 goal, and that I honestly care for their kids.
What advice would you offer other teachers seeking to build and grow a travel program at their schools?
If I were to give advice to a teacher at a large school wanting to recruit students, I would have to say that she has to put her/his self out there, make contact with other students and not just let a flyer do the work. They would need to create a way to interact with other students than just those in their classroom, and go a little out of their way to get to know those students.
You recently got back from a Global Conference Training Weekend in Rome, Italy. How did you describe that opportunity to the parents in your community?
As for my experience in Rome and how going to a global conference helps me prepare for taking my students abroad, I really feel, and expressed to my parents that being a leader for their kids means that I want to be prepared. The fact that ACIS gives me the opportunity to train for it and do it in person in another country just goes to show how dedicated ACIS is to their clients and students. I shared with my parents that I would be going on this training not to brag about going on a trip but to let them know that I would be training to take their students abroad, and that it would really let me see what ACIS is capable of.
I can’t wait to share with them my experience and how well we were taken care of while in Rome, and I know that it will give them further reassurance that their kids are in good hands.
What techniques have you used to build travel programs at your school? Let us know in the comments section below!