8 Ways to Excel as a Classroom Volunteer
Serving as a parent volunteer is an excellent way to partner with your child’s school.
Not only do you get a sneak peek inside the classroom and a chance to meet the children you hear all about, but you also get to lend your teacher support with an extra set of hands and a fresh dose of patience.
And while you want to volunteer, scraping together a few hours is never easy — so if you’ve found the time, made childcare arrangements for your smaller children, and had that second (or third) cup of coffee, you want your time in the classroom to mater.
So the next time you find yourself sitting in a tiny chair surrounded by colorful billboards, remember these eight tips to get high marks as a parent volunteer.
Give attention to all the children — not just yours.
Your child is sure to be excited with you in the classroom — so much so that he’ll try hard to get your attention – all of it.
Of course, you should warmly greet your child upon arrival but look for other children who could use an encouraging word from a smiling adult. There will be plenty of time later for you and your child to connect over your time in the classroom.
Bonus tip: Let your child know the day before that you’ll be in the classroom. Explain the job you’ll be doing and how long you plan to stay. Doing so minimizes distractions upon your arrival and allows your presence to be an asset to the entire classroom.
In a classroom with 25 children, even the most well-planned day can get off track. As you arrive to volunteer, be flexible.
With all your teacher juggles — lesson plans, student behavior, test prep, and paperwork, be willing to jump in wherever you’re needed even if the job asked of you is slightly different than what you signed up to do.
Come to engage.
Treat volunteering just like you would a job. Dress appropriately, arrive on time, silence your smartphone, and keep adult chit-chat to a minimum. The more you fully engage, the more you’ll learn, enjoy, and appreciate your child’s school.
Protect confidential information.
As you spend time in the school offices or with teachers and children, you will come across sensitive information. Honor the students by keeping their personal information confidential.
Let the teacher handle discipline.
Every teacher has a unique classroom management system. Laid out in detail at the beginning of the year, the students know the system with its rules, rewards, and consequences.
As a volunteer, you may face behavior issues that need swift and appropriate addressing. Defer to the teacher if a situation arises so she can handle it in a way that is predictable for the child and keeps you out of the middle.
Volunteer in ways that come naturally.
Knowing yourself — your strengths and your weaknesses — helps you quickly find your sweet spot in your child’s classroom. Look for volunteer opportunities that line up with your natural strengths.
- If you love all things crafty and creative, look for volunteer opportunities that’ll get your hands messy.
- If you love reading or theatre, volunteer as a mystery reader or assist with the school’s upcoming play.
- Love words and writing? Offer to craft the classroom’s newsletter or keep the website up-to-date.
- If you’re a neat-freak, put those skills to use by organizing bookshelves or cleaning out cubbies.
Bonus idea: Ask your child’s teacher for one dreaded task that needs completing. Take that task off her hands! She’ll be thankful for your willingness to knock out one task on her to-do list.
Find a way that works for you.
If you have small children or work full-time, there are still plenty of ways to serve.
Find tasks and activities that line up with your current rhythms and routines. Here are a few out-of-the-classroom ways to volunteer.
Ways to Volunteer Outside the Classroom
- Prep for learning centers at home
- Coordinate class parties over email, text, or classroom app
- Update the teacher’s blog and/or newsletter
- Serve on the school’s parent advisory board
- Organize class fundraising efforts
- Pick up bulk items like snacks and school supplies
- Donate board games or other resources for indoor recess
- Start a playgroup for classroom moms with small children
- Collect money for teacher gifts (holiday and birthday)
- Make playdough for the classroom
- Write thank-you notes to parents for donating their time, money, and resources
Use communication channels.
Your teacher wants to communicate with you quickly and effectively.
One of the best ways to stay connected with all the happenings of your child’s classroom is to engage with the communication channel set-up by your teacher.
Whether a paper newsletter, website or apps like ClassTag, commit to staying in the know about class announcements, events, and volunteer needs by reading and checking out those channels regularly.
Eager to Return
As a parent of school-aged children, there’s no cause more worthy of your time than volunteering in your child’s classroom.
The next time you generously serve as a parent volunteer, remember these tips. If you do, you’ll leave the school knowing your presence blessed both your teacher and your child— and there’s no doubt both of them will be eager for you to return.