Has your child’s teacher asked for volunteers this year? If you have never offered your services, you may want to reconsider. You will find that volunteering in your child’s classroom will help your child as much as his teacher.
Many elementary school teachers are eager to accept help from parents. When classes have as many as twenty-five or thirty students, with children as young as five or six years old, it is truly a blessing to have an extra pair of hands. My consistent involvement in various classroom activities has helped both my son and daughter to understand that their school day is just as important to me as it is to them. I truly believe that this has been a catalyst to their success.
I have been a regular volunteer at my children’s schools for 12 years, which allows me to have a consistent dialogue with my children’s teachers about their progress. Each year I became familiar with the daily class schedule and was able to ask the right questions at the end of the day. For instance, instead of the generic “What-did-you-do-in-school-today?” I would ask, “What was the topic for writer’s workshop this morning?” Subject-specific questions seem to generate an actual response instead of this typical response: “Ah…nothing.” I would also hear about changes that were being made at the school before they were published in the monthly newsletter. I got to know my children’s friends and was relieved to find out that they were making good choices.
Their school day is just as important to me as it is to them.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule or the time to participate in classroom activities on a regular basis. If you want to volunteer but your work schedule does not permit it, ask your child’s teacher if you can do something from home. Sometimes creating colourful signs for the bulletin board or making book covers for students’ portfolios is just as helpful to a teacher as your physical presence in class. Your child’s teacher will still get to know you better. She will realize that you want to take an active role in your child’s studies and will appreciate any help you can give her. You can seize the opportunity during brief phone conversations to ask about your child’s progress or to convey any concerns you may have.
If creativity isn’t your thing, you may want to help out at special events. Take a personal day to volunteer at the Teacher’s Appreciation Luncheon or the annual book fair. How about volunteering to be a chaperone for one of the field trips? These occasions can offer a relaxed setting for discussing a recent development in your child’s behaviour. A casual comment from a teacher such as, “Sam hasn’t been concentrating on his writing lately…maybe there is something we can do to help him,” is usually less threatening than a formal note home. You can get to the bottom of your child’s problem and come up with solutions together.
If you decide to volunteer, here are some classroom etiquette dos and don’ts to consider:
- DO tell your child’s teacher about any skills or hobbies you have.
- DO show up on time.
- DO refer to your child’s teacher as Mrs. Smith (not Mary) in the classroom.
- DO wait for an appropriate time to ask about your child’s progress (not in the middle of a messy art project).
- DO dress comfortably and appropriately.
- DON’T ask for special favours.
- DON’T overstay your welcome.
- DON’T make a pest of yourself (you are there to help out, not chat about a million other things).
- When in doubt…ASK!
I decided to volunteer in my children’s classrooms to learn which subjects they needed the most help with at home and to get to know their teachers well so that I could feel comfortable asking questions about their progress. What I did not foresee was how much I would personally benefit from the experience. I became friendly with other mothers who volunteered and made connections with many of them outside of the school setting. I got to know the office staff and the principal on a more personal basis. This makes the communication from home to school much easier. By watching my children’s teachers, I also learned innovative ways to help them at home.
Remember that you can remain connected once your child enters middle school and high school as well. You can volunteer for booster clubs in the specific activities your child is involved with. Continue to put your name in to help out at concerts, fundraising events, honour roll breakfasts and field trips. I have found that although I am no longer volunteering in the classroom, my presence at their schools has been a huge benefit.
The cooperative alliance of parents and teachers who work together as a team is a formula for success. Find the time to get involved and show your child how much you care about his education. Any level of participation is important. Your child can only benefit from your genuine interest. You might find, as I have, that it is one of the most important things you can do for your child’s education.
MYRNA BETH HASKELL IS A FEATURE WRITER, COLUMNIST, AND AUTHOR OF LIONS AND TIGERS AND TEENS: EXPERT ADVICE AND SUPPORT FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS PARENT JUST LIKE YOU (UNLIMITED PUBLISHING LLC, 2012): FOR DETAILS: MYRNAHASKELL.COM. BOOK ALSO AVAILABLE AT: AMAZON.COM AND AMAZON.CO.UK