My boys are in third grade, first grade, and the final year of preschool and yet this is the first year that I’ve been a regular volunteer in their school.
Back when I was a teacher(before my kids were born), I assumed I would volunteer in my children’s classrooms. But when my oldest started kindergarten, I had one child in preschool and one at home all the time. In the years following, there was always still a child at home and then I added working full-time from home and I simply didn’t have the time to go into the classroom and volunteer.
But this year, with my workload lightened(unfortunately) and all three of my boys in school 5 days a week(even if one of them is only half-day), I decided it was time to volunteer.
I go in once a week to tutor small groups during math time in my oldest’s classroom. It’s a comfortable fit for me: despite being a total bookworm, I always loved teaching math best. And even though I think my son would be okay with it if I had to pull him for a group, I haven’t had to yet since math is his best subject. I figure he gets my help at home, it works out better that he’s not getting more of me during his school day.
I’ve volunteered a few times in my first grader’s classroom, but only when the teacher asks for help, as she isn’t one who wants a regular volunteer. I could probably be a little more forward with my offer to help in her classroom and she’d probably take me up on it but my first grader hates when I leave his classroom. He does fine when I’m not there, but if I am there and leave at a time that’s not the end of the day and have to leave him to finish out the rest of his day without me, he gets emotional. It’s not worth it.
Volunteering doesn’t have to mean you’re doing any sort of teaching/tutoring. Teachers need a variety of help in their classrooms, getting materials ready, getting things organized, chaperoning field trips, extra hands on party days. And the PTO needs help getting events organized, putting together fliers, getting sponsors, planning fundraisers, etc. I’m one of only a handful of parents who shows up at the PTO meetings and I’ll do whatever I can to help(not that I’ve actually done much here, but more about that later).
But despite how much I’m volunteering this year, I don’t think that every parent needs to volunteer.
Not everyone has the time: if you work (outside the home or at home), it’s near-impossible to get there. Or maybe you have other kids you’d have to find a sitter for in order to volunteer.
Maybe it’s not your personality to want to help out in a classroom, with all those kids. I totally get that there’s a difference between parenting your own kids and working with groups of your child’s classmates. Sort of like how I watch my own kids on the sidelines at a game, but hate when others assume I’ll watch their kids, too.
At a recent info night about the changes in the end of year reading assessments, one of the parents suggested that in order to get our children better prepared, they need more one on one time and the solution was to get more parent volunteers into the classrooms.
I bit my tongue so hard that I’m surprised it didn’t start bleeding. Not every parent makes a good tutor. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you know how to teach it- there is a reason teachers have to take teaching methods classes in college. Now, some people can teach, but to assume every parent can just isn’t true. Add in there the parents who flatly admit they have not a clue how to do their children’s homework and I just didn’t see that as a solution. I’d rather have my child in a 1-22 ratio with his teacher, rather than 1-1 with someone who doesn’t know the assessments and doesn’t really want to be there.
The accusation seemed to hang in the air that parents who don’t already volunteer are slackers, since there are many valid reasons for not volunteering, including if you just don’t want to because it’s not your job.
And then there are those who want to help but don’t feel welcome, so they eventually give up. I feel a bit like this with our PTO, when there are moms who have made it clear they’ve been volunteering for years and they have their friends already and why should they accept someone new. Now, I’m stubborn enough that I really don’t care and I’ll still do whatever I can to help, but I wouldn’t blame other moms for walking away.
Do you volunteer at your child’s school?
Most of the time, when I host Pour Your Heart Out, I share something heartfelt. But PYHO is also about sharing your opinions. After reading a great post over at These Little Waves about volunteering, I realized this is something I have a lot of opinions on, so I thought I’d share. Thanks to Galit for the inspiration!
Last Week’s Pour Your Heart Out Highlights
- When It’s Too Personal to Blog from Single Mom in the South: we all spill so much on our blogs but what do you do when something is too personal to share?
- The Day I Planned to Die from Jammie Girl: it’s about what you think. Angie is sharing what happened when she tried to end her life recently. She’ll be sharing her experience over the next few weeks, so please go show her some support.
- Down, Down, Down from Embracing the Spectrum: sometimes you just want someone to throw you a liferaft.
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