Volunteering in your child's classroom benefits you, your child, the teacher, and your school community. It's something every parent should consider doing - no matter how busy you think you are.
Classroom Volunteering & Parenting
With 40-plus-hour workweeks, family chauffeur duties, doctor's visits, personal commitments, and the tasks involved in managing a busy household, you might think you don't have the time to volunteer in your child's classroom. However, if you can find the time, for example, to supply the snacks for a holiday celebration, volunteering in your child's classroom is one of the most valuable gifts you can give him or her, and it's something we should all feel inspired to do.
Teachers' Needs & Parental Support
As Jo Ashline writes in her article for the ''Orange County Register'', it takes a village to supervise and support 20 or more students for 7-8 hours each day. Many schools are underfunded, and teaching assistants can only do so much - if your teacher even has one. According to PTO Today, your active presence and the help you provide boosts morale among teachers, lightens a challenging workload, and leads to a better experience for all members of the school community, ranging from those in the principal's office to other classroom volunteers. And by helping to better school life for staff, you're also helping to better classroom life for the students they serve.
Students' Needs & Parental Support
Many of the students in my son's class were convinced that their parents were ''too busy'' or ''didn't care'' enough to take an interest in what was happening in the classroom. As embarrassed as students claim to be when parents and other adults are around, the truth is, they want and need to know that we care, we're interested, and we support them as they find their way through an increasingly complex school and social life. The psychological benefits can't be understated; studies show that students whose parents volunteer do better in school than children whose parents stay away.
Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla state in their book A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement that students reap huge rewards from parent involvement at school, including:
- Improved grades
- Higher test scores
- Better attendance
- Better social skills
- Improved behavior
Any one of these benefits should be reason enough to consider offering some of your time, but when you consider that all are possible, why wouldn't you want to help?
Volunteer Options for Busy Parents
While it's true that volunteering in your child's classroom could turn into a full-time, unpaid gig if you really wanted it to, that doesn't have to be the case. A small commitment can go a long way in terms of benefiting both teachers and students in the classroom.
Some simple ways I have found to help in my spare time include:
- Completing prep work. With younger classes especially, prep work can be a time suck for teachers. Taking the time to cut out flashcards or decorate bulletin boards would be greatly appreciated.
- Arrange communications. If you're good at email management, offer to make sure that messages go out to parents, so that all members of the classroom community know what's happening and are on the same page.
- Read aloud. If your child is younger, volunteering to read to his or her class during story or instructional time can free up the teacher to help students who are struggling to comprehend a lesson.
- Help clean up. Projects can get messy. Volunteering to help clean or manage that mess after the class is finished can free the teacher to move on to something else.
- Monitor the lunchroom or playground. Lunchroom and playground monitors have an important job - keeping the peace. If you can dedicate one or two days a week to help promote that peace, you'll also have the opportunity to get to know your child's classmates and friends and they can get to know you.
- Wrangle help. Enlisting other parent volunteers to help on projects can take the load off of the classroom teacher and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and lighten up your volunteer work load, too!
If you have more time, you could coach an after-school group, support a club, act as a chaperone for in-school events, work in the library, speak at career day, or any number of other activities that would benefit the school and students.
Personal Benefits of Volunteering
Altruism and your child's education aren't the only reasons to volunteer in the classroom - you get something out of it, too. Not only does volunteering give you the chance to see your student in action as Joan Young, a 4th-grade teacher from San Francisco, notes in her article on the subject, but also provides you with an opportunity to get to know their classmates, make new friends among other volunteers, and enhance or fill in the gaps on your resume should you decide to change jobs or return to the workforce. Plus, you can feel good about stepping up and helping your community when they need you. Isn't that worth a little of your time?