I can never read enough of Kate Nowak, a teacher blogger. Recently she wrote:
I have a trick for recruiting students for voluntary activities. For example, an enriching day of mathematics, or to contribute writing for community outreach, or to mentor some freshmen. And it's not to make announcements to whole classes to say, come talk to me if you are interested. That doesn't work.
This is such a powerful observation. Our school frequently has announcements precisely like this. Come talk to Ms. X if you are interested. Of course nobody does. Or very few. Maybe 2 kids out of 220.
Kate N continues:
I know people might object to this, because maybe it seems unfair, like opportunities are being limited. (Even though, as I said, the open invitation never works anyway.) But I think of which students would be good candidates. Who has appropriate talents and who will benefit. Then I ask them to take a lap with me around the building (the corridors make a giant rectangle), and I explain what I want them to do, why I think they're the right person to do it, how it will benefit them. And I ask if they would be interested.
It always works. Nobody has ever said no. They usually say something like "I am totally into that." And, they follow through. They jump headlong into these projects with enthusiasm and grace.
This nugget is definitely going to be added to our course on building relationships with kids and parents.