Volunteer At Your Child’s School
by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
YAY for Volunteers!!
Schools around the country have been experiencing ever-increasing budget woes. These cuts often lead to the cutting of student programs, larger class sizes, and reduction of staff. While these measures are necessary due to monetary constraints, they can be devastating for education programs for students. However, more and more schools are relying on the assistance of volunteers to make the school environment as complete as it can be for students.
There are often many different types of volunteering opportunities available for people who are interested in spending time in their children’s school. You don’t have to be trained as a teacher to make a big difference in the classroom! Here are some roles that you may be interested in filling as a volunteer:
Guest Reader: Many classrooms have periods where an adult reads aloud to students to demonstrate fluency and foster a love of reading. Have a favorite picture book to share? Have a talent for speaking with different character voices? Bring your energy into the classroom as a guest reader each week.
Paper Pusher: Ok, it’s not the most glamorous job in the school, but it can make a world of difference to a teacher. Volunteers who come in to do photocopying, collating, packet preparation, cutting, and supply organization all save valuable teaching time for teachers. Are you an organized, detail-oriented parent who has some time to share? Consider offering your services as a classroom helper for organizing sheets and materials for the teacher.
Amazing Artist: Does art move your spirit? Do you like to create items for display? Offer your services as an art assistant. There are many different roles that you can help with, from help in the art room to helping teachers plan and create bulletin board presentations. The time and skill you donate will help make the school a more beautiful place to be.
Task Master: Many classrooms have increasing numbers of students and fewer and fewer hands to help out during activities and lessons. You may find your volunteering skill lies with helping out in the classroom. By taking direction from the teacher to help lead students through various activities, you may be allowing the teacher to spend more one-on-one time with every student. Have a regular schedule that allows you to plan time ahead? Consider being a helper right in the room.
All-Around Assistant: Just as with classrooms, other areas of the school are often under-staffed. Specialty areas, like art or gym, or even the office, may all benefit from having a helping hand around. If you only have a short time every week, or if you have special office skills you’d like to share, offer your services as an all-around assistant.
There are tons of roles for volunteers in the classroom, and the ones above are only a few ideas to get you started. You don’t have to be a teacher to be a helper; you simply have to have the energy and desire to make the school a better place for all of the children there. You can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many children in your spare time. Go volunteers!!
Volunteering is a great way to be involved with your child’s school and make it a better place to learn.
Before you begin, there are a few necessary issues to consider when thinking of being a volunteer in your neighborhood school:
1. Background checks: Due to heightened security, schools require all staff and volunteers to have criminal bac/h3>kground checks on file. Please do not be offended when asked to submit to these checks, as everyone is required to do so for the safety of everyone in the school.
2. Location: Some schools have policies which do not allow parents to volunteer in their own child’s classroom. There are issues which can arise when a parent and child are together in the same room which can be a distraction from the real job of learning. If your school has this policy, please do not stop volunteering, as you are making a valuable contribution to the students, just as you hope someone will help in your child’s classroom.
3. Confidentiality: When you enter the school environment as a volunteer, you do not stop being a parent, but you must also think of yourself as a professional. When people spend large amounts of time in any office, classroom, or educational setting, the possibility exists where you may hear privileged information about other students, staff, or parents. If this happens, it is imperative that you do not share what you have heard with others, but maintain a sense of professionalism and confidentiality within your role.
4. Support: As a volunteer, your role is to work to support the teachers and staff as they work with students. There may be time when you do not like the way something is presented, or you don’t like something being taught. However, please be aware that teachers are trained as professional educators and plan as best they can for their students’ needs. If you have questions about a lesson, discussion, or other classroom issue, please discuss it privately with the teacher, not with the students present. Undermining the teacher’s authority will not be productive in the classroom.
5. Security: If you see anything dangerous or hazardous for the students, notify the teacher or administration promptly. Many schools have school resource officers on-site to look into safety concerns. The more eyes that are watching, the safer your school will be.
As a volunteer, you have the ability to help many students receive a richer and fuller educational experience. By being a volunteer, you demonstrate your commitment to the education of all of your community’s children. Thank you for helping all children!
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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