Monday, December 14, 2009

Do YOU Volunteer in Your Child's School? Why or Why NOT?

I arrive at the school a few minutes early. The kindergartners are lining up after lunch, ready to head back to their classrooms. K's class is lined up right outside the office where I need to check in and get my visitor's badge.

Hi Heather!


::shy smiles::

::actual jumping up and down::

It is a heroine's welcome.

I've met these kids only a handful of times but I know most of their names. I know who is quiet and who is a character. I know who listens easily and follows directions and I know who needs to be redirected again and again.

This is the foundation of my son's school days. These kids could potentially be his friends for years to come.

Miss M's grademates have similar reactions, even still as second-graders. Those who have met me in one way or another smile and wave at me whenever they see me. M's teachers have not asked me to volunteer very often. I'm not sure why. But I have gotten to know several of the kids in her grade through the few volunteer opportunities, through Girl Scouts, through birthday parties and through going to eat lunch with M.

My children have all started their schooling as babies. I started back to school when I became a mother. We attended Early Childhood Family Education classes from the time M was about 3 months old and D and I still attend. These classes have been invaluable to me for meeting other parents with similar-aged children. M and K are still friends with some of the kids they met in baby classes. ECFE means that the parent has to be a part of the child's class. Consequently, I knew all of the kids and the parents of the kids with whom my children were interacting.

Kindergarten is a shock after that. You no longer know the kids, or more importantly perhaps, the parents. You're no longer there to explain things, to mediate, to direct. You find that some kids will dispell your children's dreams and you won't realize it until you're in the moment.

(Yes, Santa is real. Doesn't matter if you're Muslim or Jewish or Christian. Santa is real. I still believe in Santa because I've seen the things Santa can do.)

I try to see these children in my kids' classes with an open mind. They have probably very different upbringings and experience a wide range of parenting styles. It's hard to not see some of the kids with a negative light. They may steer my kids the wrong way. They may. I hope that my kids can see the right way.

The reality is that most of these kids ask me about what my job is and how I can come to spend time with them. They marvel that I write my kids notes for their lunch boxes every day. They look enviously as I hug and kiss my kids hello and goodbye.

The reality is that the majority of the volunteering in the classrooms is done by the same 5-6 families within each 2-3 grade range. The reality is that these kids are starving for their parents to pay attention and show that they have a stake in their lives. One of those vacation days? Use it to volunteer in your child's school.

The things I have learned about my kids and their friends through volunteering and through simply sitting in the lunch room and sharing a lunch with my child and her/his friends are priceless to me.

I don't have teenagers yet, but I like to think that being here now, volunteering, showing that I care about my kids and their friends, will do a least a little something to keep the communication lines open as they reach the teen years and naturally pull away. Perhaps I will be the mom that one of their friends turns to when he/she needs help. I hope that I'll be the mom that my own children turn to because I've been there, listening, watching, learning, from the start.

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Life As I Know It said...

I volunteer in my son's school. I actually really enjoy it, and I know he loves that I'm there (don't know how much longer he'll like me being in his school, though ;))

mayberry said...

I volunteer for short stints a few times a week and I hang out at the playground after school whenever weather permits. I agree--it's so valuable to get to know the other kids. It's also one of the reasons I like our small school.

for a different kind of girl said...

I haven't been able to volunteer in my youngest son's classroom as much lately as I have in the past, but I do what I can to stay connected to life in his class when I can visit him at lunch/recess, or during activities. I know he appreciates it, even when he doesn't even talk to me while I'm there! It has definitely given me an opportunity to meet the children who have become his friends, and at least once, it's helped me make friends with a local mom, too, and we get together on our own mom dates even if the boys don't get together to play!

Awesome Mom said...

I have done a number of things in Evan's class and am there every day picking him up and dropping him off. In theory I could just do a drive by drop off but I like to get a lot of face time with the teachers. I really think that the more involved parents are the ones with kids that do better in school.

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

You're a great mom.

I got a chance to volunteer in my son's preschool classroom for the first time last month.

Mary (MPJ) said...

I popped over here from Gunfighter's blog. And I have to admit that I don't volunteer at my kids' schools.

One of my two children has special needs and it takes an enormous amount of energy to be present for the two of them together and focus when they are here. I've found that if I volunteer, I use up some of that energy and can't seem to make it through to the end of the day without getting cranky and snapping at my kids, without being the mom I don't want to be.

I've found it's better for our family if I use the time when they are in school to try to prepare myself for when they are around -- get the errands run, do the dishes, fold the laundry, rest, breathe, pray.

I am thankful every single day for the people who are there for my kids during the day so I can give them my all when they get home. And I'm so grateful that there are moms like you out there in my children's lives to help and support them with me. Thank you.

Jules said...

I am so grateful for the volunteers in Drew's room...I work, and will take a day off to volunteer - I do that every year, but it isn't the same as volunteering all the time and developing relationships :)

CT Mom said...

This is the last year I can volunteer at our elementary school. My youngest is in 4th grade, so I work one morning a week for an hour or so, teaching the kids computer skills. I have my group of 8 who I get to spend some special one-on-one time with, and luckily, one of them is my daughter! I'll also help with Field Day in June.

I used to be treasurer of the PTO for 2 years, then I ran a fundraiser, and finally was the webmaster for two schools' PTO sites until my oldest moved out of one of the schools. I found that the PTO politics made PTO involvement more hassle than it was worth, and I like the time in the classroom much more. I can experience some of my daughter's day, get to know her teacher and her classmates, and feel like I make a real contribution.

Next year my youngest moves on to the intermediate school, where there is no classroom volunteering. There are academic events such as Civil War Day and Immigration Day where the parents can play a significant part, so I will try to do those.

chelle said...

I am finding it hard to get into the classroom with two younger ones. The teacher discourages it because there is a student that has unpredictable behaviours. I do volunteer for the PTA, help out at the school when I can.

I hope to do more and more as time goes on. Would love to know how you do it with little ones!

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