Recruitment Makes the World Go Round

It’s January. January means snow, wintertime blues and planning for the next school year.

If you really think about it, it is crazy that we are only half-way complete with the current school year and we are already talking and planning for the upcoming school year. But, that’s how the system works and we as journalism advisers need to also plan accordingly.

Since we are an elective, that means we not only compete against core courses, but also other electives. For a new teacher and adviser, recruitment is a scary thought and potentially difficult process to plan for and execute. Recruitment is one of my favorite parts of my job, and I have a quick set of tips and ideas to make the process easy and fun. So… here it goes:

  1. Personal contact is a must. I’m a firm believer that a little care goes a long way. After students are recommended to me by my own staff members or fellow teachers, I compile the list and craft custom letters to be hand delivered to the potential new staffers either by me or my staff. The letters have Tom Tom letterhead and signed by me, the current EIC and the next EIC. We stuff it neatly in an envelope and hand write the name on the front of the envelope. The handwritten name means a lot and so does the letter.
  2. Clothes. Yes, clothing is extremely important. I was in a fraternity and I borrow a lot of my methods and ideas from that time. Trust me, it’s one of the best places to look. The more students see your group, the better the chances you have of students wanting to invest themselves in your program. We get new shirts at the beginning of every year and wear them on paper days. We designate days to wear shirts around registration time as well, usually the days that certain grades are registering for classes for that last minute push. If you don’t do new shirts at the beginning of the year, do it now.
  3. Event planning. Give students opportunities to meet you and your staff because you are the best sell of the program. We plan a meet and greet and also try to do some quick mini-events of students stopping into the lab to see what we do, or even set up a photo booth for recruitment’s sake.
  4. Don’t be afraid. New teachers have enough on their plates; I get that. However, you need not fear being new in order to successful recruit. Take the leap and just do it.
  5. Hand pick some and look for others in unlikely places. You know the kids who’d be successful in your program, so find them and personally invite them. Also, remember that there are students who we aren’t aware of all the time, but have incredible skills and talents that could truly benefit the program. Yes, it sounds like you need to look all around to find people, but, in fact, it’s a lot of soul-searching for students who will ultimately make it matter for you program.

Good luck and happy recruitment.

Patrick Johnson, CJE,  is the news magazine adviser at Antioch Community High School in Illinois.  He is a member of the KEMPA board and director of the KEMPA Summer Journalism Workshop.  His blog focuses on issues affecting new journalism advisers.