Classroom Volunteers: Get Involved, Not Overwhelmed
Wondering how to make a positive impact in your child’s classroom without becoming one of those dreaded helicopter parents? Or without completely giving up any and all me time?
Just like every other parent out there, you’re juggling marriage, family, friends, and work outside the home (as well as in). You certainly don’t feel the need for yet another duty on that never-ending to-do list.
But your child’s education is, of course, very important, and you want him or her to excel and enjoy learning. We’ve all heard and read the research that kids whose parents are consistently involved in their education fare better. So how can you help out and show your kids your support?
Making it work for the both of you
There are many ways to get involved, inside and outside of school. One way is to offer your assistance to the teacher right from the start. Just make sure you decide in advance how much time you’re willing to commit and set your limits. Are you willing to take on the be-all end-all Room Parent; or do you prefer to come in for an hour a week?
Give the teacher specific and consistent time slots so that the teacher can properly plan projects that require a little extra help (and so you can plan the rest of your time!). Many teachers do not have a Teacher’s Aide because of educational budget cuts, so they welcome any help that comes their way. And we all can imagine how hard being a teacher can be – next to parenting, that is!
However, be aware that all teachers have different styles and some teachers might prefer not to have parents in the class during the day. Perhaps it poses a distraction for the students. Or the teacher simply needs to establish authority.
In that case, let them know you’re willing to help out from home. Teachers often need help prepping projects. And who knows? Later in the school year when things get extra busy, they may just need some extra assistance and will remember to call you.
Plus, there are also other ways to contribute like joining the PTA (Parent Teacher’s Association). You can also help out with field trips, holiday parties, or spearhead a fundraiser.
Also, let teachers know about any special talents you might have. Teachers often need help making posters or decorating classrooms. If you’re a science whizz, you could help out with classroom experiments. A literature fiend? There might be a book-making project in store for you. A crafter? The holidays are on the way and the room needs some sprucing up!
Be creative and stay on top of the curriculum. That way, if the kids are studying something in line with your talents or personality, you might be able to add some hand-on learning or specialized projects.
Also keep an eye out for ways to help the school administration. You can help with websites, emails, garden work, or other important activities.
Duties that are ever-changing
When you go to the class, depending on the grade your child is in, the teacher may allow you to work directly with the students. And you might be asked to participate in a variety of ways – whether it’s timing their fluency, reading and discussing a story with them, working one-on-one with students who need extra assistance, helping with math skills, or working with a group of students on a writing assignment.
Usually, in grades 3-5, the teacher may ask you to do projects in the classroom, like decorating a bulletin board, or administrative work like grading papers, making copies, stapling the week’s homework packet, and . . . well, you get the idea.
Remember to keep an open mind, knowing that your work will be appreciated, and chances are your child will be happy to see you during the school day!
The benefits of volunteering
Usually during the elementary school age, your child doesn’t mind kissing you good-bye or giving you a hug in front of friends, so imagine the excitement when mom or dad shows up to class! Your presence alone demonstrates that you support their education and place importance on learning.
You might be welcomed with a big hug and a “Hi Mommy/Daddy!” And you will get to know the other kids in the class as well.
Once you establish a consistent schedule in the classroom, you will get to know the teaching style, and you can observe your child in the classroom environment, and see if there are any challenges.
Overall, you will gain a new perspective on what a school day is like for your child and how the school is run. It will give you an advantage when discussing with the teacher your child’s academic and social progress in the classroom. You’ll also be able to tackle any concerns early on before they escalate into something bigger.
Guidelines to follow in the classroom
Attend your school’s workshop for parent volunteers explaining what is required of you before you can begin volunteering. You may be required to take a TB test (administered by your healthcare provider).
You will also learn about the frequency of volunteering allowed and for how long at a time, dress codes, and all other rules to ensure that you do not spend your time trying to get in a conference with the teacher, and most importantly, that you are there to serve all the students, not just your kid.
On top of the school’s rules, avoid being a helicopter parent. This is not the time to catch up with your child, spend the hour snuggling, showing favoritism, ranking your child against the others, or spying on the classroom’s kids to pick out possible play date candidates.
Also make sure you do not penalize or scold your child for things that take place in the classroom. This is your teacher’s domain and you should allow them to rule as they see fit. Take any issues up with your teacher instead. After all, you want your child to welcome your presence, not to feel stifled by it!
Do not gossip with your child about what you’ve observed during the day. Your child needs to make independent decisions about their peers and they’re usually a lot more forgiving than parents are. Besides, we have the tendency to see our own children through rose-colored classes while being critical of others.
Avoid spreading rumors amongst parents. Not only is it unfair to typecast a young child based on a few actions you’ve observed, spreading rumors also opens you and your child to the very same criticism. Trust us, you want school to be an open and forgiving learning experience.
Have you volunteered at your child’s school? What kind of activities did you do?