Whether their kids are kindergarteners or high school seniors, parents have many
good reasons to volunteer at school.
What Are the Benefits of Getting Involved?
Getting involved is a great way to show your kids that you take an interest in
their education. It also sends a positive message that you consider school a worthwhile
Many schools now have to raise their own funds for activities and supplies that
once were considered basic necessities. Parent volunteers are essential to organizing
and chaperoning these fundraising events and other school activities.
Parent volunteers offer a huge resource and support base for the school community.
They also show their kids the importance of participating in the larger
Working with teachers, administrators, and other parents will help you understand
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
Some parents get "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.
How Do I Get Started?
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.
They're a great opportunity to talk to your child's teachers or the principal about
If you have something to offer or just want to help out in whatever way you can,
talk about it with teachers. They 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
Here are some of the ways a parent volunteer can help:
act as a classroom helper
mentor or tutor students
help children with special needs
volunteer in a school computer lab
help organize, cater, or work at fundraising activities such as bake sales or
act as a lunchroom or playground monitor
help to plan and chaperone field trips, track meets, and other events that take
place away from the school
help to plan and chaperone in-school events (dances, proms, or graduation ceremonies)
organize or assist with a specific club or interest group (if you have an interest
in an activity that isn't currently available to students, offer to help get a group
started — for example, a chess club or cycling team)
assist coaches and gym teachers with sports and fitness programs or work in the
school concession stand at sporting events
help the school administrators prepare grant proposals, letter-writing campaigns,
or press releases, or help with other administrative needs
attend school board meetings
work as a library assistant or offer to help with story time or reading assistance
in the school library
sew costumes or build sets for theatrical and musical productions
work with the school band or orchestra or coach music students one-on-one
help out with visual arts, crafts, and design courses and projects
hold a workshop for students in trade or technical programs
spend some time with a specific club or interest group (ask the teacher who sponsors
volunteer to speak in the classroom or at a career day, if you have a field of
expertise that you'd like to share
supervise or judge experiments at a science fair
Remember that not everyone is suited for the same type of involvement. You may
have to "try on" a few activities before you find something that feels right. If you
need ideas, ask your child's teacher, who will likely be glad to help you think of
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 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 involved with your volunteer activities.
If you're chaperoning a field trip, for example, find out if you'll pay for transportation
and admissions costs. Ask if you'll transport students in your own vehicle or ride
with them on a school bus.
If you organize or help out with an activity that takes place off the school grounds,
find out if there are any specific school regulations you need to keep in mind or
any liability issues you should consider.
What Else Should I Know?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when signing up to volunteer:
Be clear about how much time you're willing to volunteer. Don't
be afraid to say no if you're asked to do more than you feel comfortable with —
but try to say it early enough so that someone else can take your place. Many trips
and activities can't happen unless the school has enough chaperones or supervisors.
Start small. Don't offer to coordinate the holiday bake sale,
the band recital, and a swim meet all at once. If you've taken on too much, find out
if you can pass some duties to other parents.
Don't give your child special treatment when you're volunteering at the
school. Follow your child's cues to find out how much interaction works for
both of you. Most kids enjoy having their parents involved, but if yours seems uncomfortable,
consider taking a more behind-the-scenes approach. Make it clear that you aren't there
to spy — you're only trying to help out the school.
Get feedback from the teachers and students. Find out what's
most and least helpful to them, and ask what you can do to make the most of the time
you spend on school activities. It's important to communicate openly with teachers,
administrators, students, and volunteers. Be flexible and responsive as the needs
of the students and the school change.
Remember that volunteering not only benefits your kids. It helps the classroom,
the whole school, and the community by giving students positive interaction, support,