Thursday, September 11, 2008

Volunteering in Your Child's Class

I am definitely one of those Mommies that have "Homeroom Mommy" plastered on my forehead. Before I even had Allie, people would always tell me that they just knew I was going to be a homeroom mom when Allie was in school. And I can't argue with that - Homeroom Mommy and Mommy Meryl are one and the same! Would it really surprise you to know that I have been her homeroom mom for the last 4 years of school? And for the last two its been wonderful because I get to be a co-homeroom mom and it has allowed me to share the fun with some amazing mommies!! But I have recently come to realize that Homeroom Mommy is all the easy and fun stuff - planning parties, communicating with parents, creating community within the class, etc.

Its the day-to-day volunteering that I believe is so much more important and needed by the teachers.

I volunteer in Allie's class every Wednesday for 2 hours and fortunately, there are 5 other Moms that volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis as well and I know that Allie's teacher is so appreciative for our time and efforts. Fortunately she does reach out to parents because not only does she truly need the help, but its such a valuable experience for parents as well.

When I am in Allie's class I truly appreciate the amazing task teachers have each day - they need to manage a classroom of 20 kids (in Allie's class) of varying social, intellectual and behavioral abilities. When parents come in to volunteer, it allows the teacher to break the kids into smaller groups and work with the kids at the same levels. It allows my child and your child to have a little more of that individual attention, or at least smaller ratio attention, that truly enables our kids to flourish.

When I get to spend time in Allie's class I get to know the kids better, as well as the teacher and feel a part of her community. I get to see what is going on and have a better understanding of how the teacher runs the classroom. I know when Allie talks about a child, what he/she looks like and a little bit of their personality.

Allie has a child with special needs in her class - he is a wonderful little boy who happens to have Autism and he thankfully has a full time aide with him. Why do I say thankfully? Because all of the kids in Allie's class get the benefit of another set of hands in that class to help the teacher. While most of the aide's day is spent tending to her student, there are other times that she is available to help out the class and that is an extra bonus for Allie's classmates.

When I volunteer in Allie's class, I get to see another side to Allie - one that isn't always jump roping or hula hooping. I get to see a little girl who enjoys school work and if she knows the answer, loves to try and help others. I get to watch her coming out of her shell and opening up and raising her hand. Something that she rarely did in preschool or the earlier part of Kindergarten. Sometimes when I am in her class she is so engrossed in her work that she forgets I'm there - its at those times that I love watching her the best. I love seeing how she interacts with others, with her teacher and how she handles herself as she goes from task to task. I get a kick out of watching her rest her head on her hand while she is working on something - something I still do to this day if its not on the computer.

I have some friends that don't want to volunteer in their kids' classes because they say its not their thing or they work part-time and they don't want to spend their few hours of free time in a classroom.

I urge you to give it a try - I really think you will find it rewarding - a win-win for you, your child and your child's classroom. If you don't want to be in the classroom because you don't think you are a "kid" person - that is okay, teachers always need help copying, collating, laminating, etc! There is something for everyone!

School is just one of those things that I believe you can't complain or offer criticism about unless you are at school and able to spend time in the classroom to see what is going on. Just as I don't think you can complain about who the president is if you don't vote, I don't think you can complain about your kids' classroom before you spend time in there.

Trust me, I can join a complaining/whining/criticizing coffee-clotch with the best of 'em, but I feel when I do join in the conversation, my comments are a bit more educated now for having been in the classroom. . .I was really quick to judge before I spent some time in there!

And not to mention, the best part of it all - every week Allie asks "how many more wake-ups till you come to our class"?

And we even got Daddy Rich to join in the fun. . . he does a 5 week program with the kids and I secretly think Allie loves it more when he comes. . .

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My Vision said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. I am looking forward to doing this when the girls are in school. I'm sure the teachers appreciate it as well.

Lis Garrett said...

One of the reasons why we put Bridget in a co-op preschool is because it is run entirely by the parents. The only one on payroll is the teacher, but there are always two parents in the classroom with her. We are also responsible for maintaining the school, as well. Yes, it can be a chore at times, but it's worth it. You get to know the other kids and parents.

At my kids' elementary school, however, there is a liability rule that states parents cannot bring younger siblings in when volunteering. Therefore, I've never had the opportunity to volunteer in my kids' classes because I've always had one or two little ones with me. I'm looking forward to when Bridget enters kindergarten and I can be there a lot more.

BUT, I was the volunteer editor of the newsletter for two years. You can always find ways to volunteer outside the classroom, as well.

Cindy said...

Good for you! It's great that you're so involved! I'm sure that means alot to your daughter (and her teacher)! I would absolutely love to volunteer in my son's first grade class, I just can't seem to find the time thanks to his six month old brother. I'd hate to sign up and then leave the teacher hanging because I couldn't make it for some reason.

Penny Ryder said...

Thanks for this article. It sounds like you've found the best ways to be involved in your daughter's class. I am a big supporter of the parent/teacher partnership, but have been really struggling to find willing parents this year. I am starting a podcast to further strengthen this partnership. It's early days, but you can check it out at