Research shows that children whose parents pitch in at school have a better attitude and higher academic achievement. Teachers who have classroom support do their job better.
And parents who participate in the classroom are better equipped to support their child’s schoolwork. So even if your time is tight, squeezing in some school volunteer work can make all the difference in your family’s school success.
Call or write your child’s teacher to ask how you can help. In addition to being a class parent who helps with special activities and serves as a point-of-contact with other students’ families, there are other ways you can get involved. Most teachers will have ideas, including reading to the class, setting up arts and crafts projects, helping to run a Book Fair, filing and making copies, speaking at career day, etc.
What are your interests, abilities, and skills? Do you prefer working independently or following a set path? How do you really feel about a room full of kids? Would you rather work at home? What’s your schedule? You might not adore every task, but it shouldn’t drive you crazy either. Discuss your preferences and talents with the teacher to find an appropriate role.
The red tape
Volunteer guidelines vary between schools and districts. You may just be able to show up at the scheduled time and check in with the receptionist, but some schools require applications, medical documentation, or even fingerprinting and criminal record checks. Additionally, some schools don’t allow parents to volunteer in their own child’s classroom. Check with your child’s teacher or school office for information on your district’s policy.
If you’re going to be in the classroom with students, let your child’s teacher set the tone. Wait until you’ve been introduced before you interact with the class. Respecting the fact that the classroom is the teacher’s domain will help you communicate and build a good relationship.
What to do
Both working and stay-at-home parents have advantages when it comes to helping out. While being available during school hours allows time to chaperone a class party, working parents can invite kids to their office for a career day. Discuss ideas that appeal to you with your child’s teacher to find the best contribution for you both. Here are some suggestions:
- Come in and talk about your career; bring props to engage kids.
- Read to the class or individual students.
- Share your culture or ethnic background with food and celebrations.
- Tutor struggling students.
- Supervise kids on the playground or at the library.
- Help out with an art or science activity.
- Direct an activity or share a special skill.
- Set up and clean up a class party.
- Chaperone a field trip.
At your home or office:
- Make copies; type and proofread classroom materials; put together a mailing.
- Create, update, or maintain a class website.
- Help plan a school event, like a play, dance, or parent night.
- Clip coupons or bargain-hunt for classroom supplies.
- Phone other parents at the teacher’s direction.
- Assemble gift bags or favors for a class party.
- Invite the class for a tour of your office or place of business.
- Recruit other parents to help.
- Research and organize community service projects.
- Coordinate a school fundraiser.
- Join a PTA committee.
- Put your own expertise and connections to work — Do you know a printer who could help with the newsletter? Are you a computer whiz who could help build a website? Would your employer donate supplies? Could you help build a set or loan tools for the building efforts? Could you help start a student internship with your company?
Be creative (within reason)
Your help — no matter how imaginative or practical — will be appreciated. Just be sure to clear your plans with your child’s teacher beforehand and stick to the guidelines you both establish. Sharing your particular talents is the best way to make a contribution that will satisfy everyone.