Volunteering in your child’s classroom can help keep you informed about what is going on at school and show your child that you think education is very important. The following tips will help make it more fun for you and valuable for the teacher that you are a volunteer.
1. Research in advance what are the requirements to be able to volunteer
Some school districts require parent volunteers to show that they are free of tuberculosis; other districts require volunteers to be fingerprinted. If you plan to help with driving on school trips, you may be asked to show proof of auto insurance. Call your school district to avoid unpleasant surprises the first day you volunteer.
For the safety of students, many schools require visitors to come through the office first and report their presence before going to the classroom. Complying with these rules helps make your child and others safer.
2. Contact the teacher
Inform the teacher about things you can help with and get an idea of how comfortable the teacher feels with their help. You can also tell the teacher of some special talent you have and how much you can help the students. Even if you feel comfortable with what you hope to do, it is important that you know that each teacher has his or her own style. A teacher might ask you to design one project and teach it to the whole class, while another may take longer to trust you to work independently with the students.
3. Be flexible
You will be of more help to the teacher if you are willing to do what is needed. But if you do not do what you like, talk to the teacher after school. There may be a better time for you to help in the classroom, or you may not need your help in that area.
4. Do not take it personally if the teacher does not have time to talk
Time should be used to instruct students. If you need to talk to the teacher, make an appointment with him after school.
5. Remember that it is not your job to discipline students
It is okay if you call a student’s attention to stop inappropriate behavior, but the next step would be to notify the teacher or a school employee about the problem. If there are problems with a student or group you are supervising, tell the teacher immediately, and ask how you should handle this situation in the future. It is important to know the school rules well so that there is consistency with what is expected of the students.
6. Be reliable and on time
The teacher will begin to depend on you and you may need a lot if you do not go one day without warning. Being reliable is very important, even if it only helps in an activity, such as a school trip. Teachers have the help of engaging parents. If you cannot help a day, tell the teacher well in advance.
7. Be respectful
While volunteering, you may hear private conversations or information about academic progress, family life, or behavior of other students. If you find out about private information, be respectful and do not tell anyone else.
8. If you work outside the home, you can still volunteer
If you want to help at school during the day, you can ask for time off at work. Many states have laws that require employers to allow employees to request unpaid leave to participate in school activities. Laws vary from state to state and most depend on how many workers the company has.
If you cannot ask for permission at work or have other commitments in the morning, tell your child to ask his teacher if he or she is out of school. The teacher may ask you to help during the afternoon by calling other parents, getting materials for an art project or experiment, putting information on the computer, or helping to correct student compositions.
9. Prepare your child
Talk to your child before starting out as a volunteer and tell him that even though you will be in your classroom, you may not want to work with him. Remind him to listen to his teacher and follow his instructions even if you are in the classroom.
It is probably easier to let the teacher handle your child’s discipline for as long as you volunteer, though it may remind you to follow the rules as you would any other student. You will be surprised how much you learn about your child at school, even if you are working with other students.
10. Have fun
Learn the names of the students you work with and congratulate them when they do something right when they work together. Perhaps they solved a difficult math problem, cooperated with each other, or followed directions well. Students will remember you and be excited to work with you the next time you see them.