Schools are always in need of volunteer parent helpers but with jobs or younger children at home, it can be difficult to budget the craft time to cut out fall leaves for the Kindergarten classroom. But, volunteering for your child’s school does more than help out a busy teacher and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. Many studies on the effect of parental and community involvement in school show an academic benefit for students. The evidence is consistent: many students whose parents volunteer in the school setting earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills and tend to pursue higher education.
Parental involvement in the school changes according to the age and grade level of the student, from helping with craft projects in elementary to selling popcorn at the high school football game. Here’s a breakdown:
In elementary school, parent volunteers can often help directly in the classroom. Kids of elementary school age love to see Mommy or Daddy interact intheir own classroom and, as a parent, this can be a valuable opportunity to put faces to the names of the kids your child talks about at the dinner table. Other benefits include seeing the teacher’s style, how the classroom operates and how your child interacts with others. Getting to know — and be known — by the school office staff is helpful also.
When children enter middle school, parents often stop volunteering. Classrooms are usually closed to parent helpers at the higher grade levels. (Not to mention the fact that many tweens and teens would be mortified by Mom showing up in their classroom.) In middle school, help is still needed in fundraising and parent-teacher organizations. By being involved, you show your child that school is important. Plus, you can pick up information to help guide your child.
Once children enter high school, parents are relegated to a more supportive role. But, volunteering models community involvement so parents who lead by example tend to have kids who grow up to be involved in their own communities.
Volunteer during school hours
Spend your time with all students equally; avoid favoring your own child.
The teacher is boss. If your child or another student asks to go to the bathroom, refer them to the teacher. This is important for safety. The teacher needs to be aware of where students are at all times.
Minimize disruptions. If your child wants to run up and hug you or crawl into your lap, gently guide him back to his assigned task. Avoid texting or answering cell phone calls.
Sign up early if possible. Most schools have a background check and/or paperwork that must be completed before parents are allowed to interact with students.
Volunteer after school hours
Attend parent-teacher conferences and open houses. Face time with your child’s teacher is invaluable.
Join the PTA. Meetings keep you in touch with what is going on behind the scenes at school and allow you to voice your opinion on school matters.
Be involved at home by talking to your child about school, helping with homework and monitoring after-school activities.
Offer your talents. If you work in marketing, maybe you can help with flyers. If you are an artist, perhaps a teacher could use a hand with art projects. Are you a great cook? Offer to organize a potluck dinner for teachers and staff on the nights they work late for conferences or donate cupcakes to the school bake sale.
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer.