Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Volunteering at School
How to play an active role in your child’s education

by Katrina Anne Willis

August 01, 2013

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Education begins at home.” A parent or guardian is a child’s first teacher, but eventually, if you’ve opted to enroll your child in a formalized public or private school setting, he or she will have a classroom teacher as well.

In this educator Q & A, Cathy Dawson, a seasoned 4th grade teacher in the Zionsville Community School system, discusses how parents can continue to play an active role in their child’s education, both in and outside the classroom.

How often do you like to have parents volunteer in your classroom?

I love to have parents volunteer on a weekly basis. Sometimes, when there are extra classroom events going on, I enjoy having even more volunteers. I’m always eager to accept a helping hand.

What are some of your volunteers’ primary responsibilities?

There’s a wide range of volunteer opportunities in my classroom. Some of the most common are:

• Making copies

• Creating bulletin boards

• Leading small groups for math and reading stations

• Teaching math pentathlon games

• Responding kids’ journal entries

• Reading Scholastic News with small groups

• Leading gym class

What are some of the ways parents can be most helpful to you?

Parental support, both in and out of the classroom, is the most important contributor to student success. It’s critical for parents to support student work and to set expectations for how students should behave in the classroom. They then need to follow through to ensure students are learning – and behaving – as expected.

Are there instances in which you think parents should be less involved?

I think it’s important for parents to let their children “learn the hard way” so they understand the impact of their decisions. If a child forgets to bring his supplies to school, I’d rather the parent not jump in the car and make a delivery. By letting a child endure the natural consequences of his action, he is more apt to remember the lesson. It’s the natural course of growing up and learning to take responsibility.

How can parents get involved in their children’s school outside the classroom?

Our school has an active PTO that supports many activities both inside and outside the classroom. Parents can assist with Field Day, shark dissection, STEM, Math and Literacy nights and other school-wide events. Parents are also encouraged and welcome to chaperone field trips.

Any ideas for working parents who can’t commit to in-classroom time?

Parents who can’t be in the classroom during the day can volunteer for projects such as creating and cutting math games or responding to students’ journal entries. Sending something in for classroom parties is also a welcome gesture.

What do you look for in a parent volunteer?

Most importantly, I look for volunteers who are willing to do whatever tasks need to be done. Cutting shapes and making copies might not be the most exciting volunteer work, but it’s so beneficial for teachers who have limited time. I appreciate my volunteers who commit to a job, follow directions and complete tasks the way I like them to be completed.

To learn more about the volunteer opportunities within your school, contact your child’s classroom teacher when the school year begins. As educational resources continue to tighten, parent volunteers become even more important to classroom teachers. Every task a parent volunteer completes equals more instructional time for the teacher. And ultimately, all our kids benefit from that relationship.