Getting Involved at Your Child's School
Whether their kids are just starting kindergarten or entering the final year of high school, there are many good reasons for parents to volunteer at school. It's a great way to show your kids that you take an interest in their education, and it sends a positive message that you consider school a worthwhile cause.
Many schools now have to raise their own funds for activities and supplies that once were considered basic necessities, and parent volunteers are essential to organizing and chaperoning these fundraising events and other school activities.
Reasons to Get Involved
Parent volunteers offer a huge resource and support base for the school community while showing their kids the importance of participating in the larger community.
Not only will the school reap the benefits of your involvement — you will, too. By interacting with teachers, administrators, and other parents on a regular basis, you'll gain a firsthand understanding of your child's daily activities. You'll also tap into trends and fads of school life that can help you communicate with your kids as they grow and change (all without intruding on their privacy or personal space).
Even if you haven't been involved in the past, it's never too late to start. In fact, it may be more important than ever to get involved when kids reach secondary school. Some parents may experience "volunteer burnout" by the time their kids enter high school or decide that the schools don't need them as much then. Many parents who volunteered a lot of time during their kids' elementary years return to full-time careers by the time their kids are teens, so there's often a shortage in the secondary schools.
Finding the Right Opportunity
One of the best starting points for getting involved is a parent-teacher conference or open house. These are usually scheduled early in each school year, and are a great opportunity to approach your child's teachers or principal about volunteer involvement.
If you have something to offer, or if you just want to help out in whatever way you can, discuss the possibilities with teachers, who might arrange something with you personally or direct you to a department head or administrator who can answer your questions and make suggestions. It's also a good idea to join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or parents' advisory council.
Here are just some of the ways a parent volunteer can help:
Remember that not everyone is suited for the same type of involvement — you may have to "try on" a number a few activities before you find something that feels right. If you're at a loss for how you can help, just ask your child's teacher, who will likely be glad to help you think of something!
Questions to Ask
When you offer to help out, find out how much of a time commitment is expected and if it will be ongoing. Are you going to repair the costumes for the spring musical or will you be expected to keep the drama department's supplies in good condition year-round? Are you chaperoning a track meet or coaching the whole season?
Be sure to ask if any financial costs are associated with your volunteer activities. If you're chaperoning a field trip, for example, find out if you'll be required to pay for transportation and admissions costs. Ask if you'll need to transport students in your own vehicle or if a school bus will be provided.
If you're organizing or helping out with an activity that will take place off the school grounds, be sure to find out if there are any specific school regulations you need to keep in mind or any liability issues you should consider.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when signing up to volunteer:
Remember that volunteering not only benefits your kids, but will enrich the classroom, the whole school, and the entire community by providing students with positive interaction, support, and encouragement.
And don't underestimate the students — you may feel that what you have to offer might not interest them or might be above their heads, but you'll probably be pleasantly surprised. You'll help build skills, confidence, and self-esteem that will last beyond their school days.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD