Volunteer Yourself: Making it Work

Before I was a parent, I was a teacher. I vowed I would give my children’s teachers the best that I had to offer when the time came. Little did I know how busy life would be with kids! I also did not understand the logistics of wanting to help out in my oldest child’s classroom when I still had three other little ones at home. I’ve learned that like most things in life, you can make it work if it is a priority…and it is. So, here is how it has worked for me (and I’m sure for many of you out there.)

1. Communicate with your child’s teacher. What are you most comfortable helping out with? What are his/her needs? Are they comfortable if you bring your other children along or not?

2. Prioritize volunteering. Schedule with your child’s teacher in advance and write it on your calendar. How often do you want to be there? At this stage in my life once or twice a month is an accomplishment. :)

3. Utilize the opportunity. Make it worth everyone’s time and focus on a need or a strength your child has. (There are likely other learners in the class with a similar need.) My daughter is artsy and creative. She really misses her down/creative time when she is at school. There just isn’t a lot of that anymore (it seems.) While there are a lot of things I wish I could change about public education, there are a lot of things I like and for now I am committed to being positive and hopeful. I think our teachers deserve a HUGE thank you for all they do.

Now, to the utilizing part…when my daughter came home from school and said they read about papel picado in their classroom book that day and how she would just love to make it, I immediately emailed the teacher and said, “I would be happy to gather the supplies and come in and teach the kids how to make papel picado and I’ll even teach them some Spanish while we cut.” The teacher said she would love that…and no, I had never made papel picado, but there is You Tube and I’ve made paper snowflakes. I prepared the materials and showed a slideshow of my time in the Dominican Republic. We sang “Bate, Bate, Chocolate” and cut away. It was fun!

If you have child who struggles with math, but you know loves a good game, make a date out of it. Volunteer to go into the classroom and do a math game with the students.

What to do when your teacher doesn’t seem to have time…

or seem to really want you there. Be gentle, but persistent. I have the most amazing friend who would do anything for anyone. Her daughter had a teacher once who was a bit hesitant to allow my friend to help out. (I’m not sure what her reasons were.) My friend told the teacher, “I will wash your windows if you want. I just want to be in the classroom–helping.” Maybe your child’s teacher does just want clean windows. :)

How it’s worked for me…

When my daughter was in Kindergarten I was able to trade a few times a month with a friend who had a daughter in the same class. It worked great! I was able to attend each field trip and even took my other two kids along a few times.

Then we moved and my daughter started 1st grade in a new town and a new school. Our child #4 also joined us that summer…so things were a little trickier. I was able to trade with another mom a few times and then eventually I always helped during reading time when students were taking their AR tests. My daughter’s teacher was fine with me bringing my other three along. So that’s what we did! There were several of the students who were better readers when they had someone to read to and my kids love to listen to stories…so for the most part it worked out quite well. I can’t say there were never distractions! However, the students and my kids all looked forward their weekly reading time.

My daughter is now in 2nd grade. Her class is bigger than her 1st grade class and also, my sweet baby boy is now walking and into everything! It’s not the time to be bringing all of my crew into the classroom, and it’s probably not the teacher’s preference. So again, I’ve started trading with another mom who has a child in the same school and who lives close by so I am able to leave my other children for less than two hours.

The best part of my recent volunteering experience was the smile on my daughter’s face when I was there and all of her hugs. That made it all worth it. Someday she might not be that excited to see me at school!

Do you have a favorite ‘thing’ you do in your child’s classroom or school?

Sources: Collage template from Jessica Sprague

2 comments on “Volunteer Yourself: Making it Work

  1. Doreen Bench on said:

    I’ve been make it a priority to be in my daughters’ classrooms a couple times a month as well and its nice to hear your thoughts on it. I love your idea of looking for a specific need and offering to teach a lesson on it!

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