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Parent Volunteers

Having taught Kindergarten for the beginning of this year and for most of last year, I have come to really love parent volunteers. In the past I was always hesitant to have parents in the classroom because I was afraid of being judged, having the students misbehave, and a variety of other excuses. When I started in a Kindergarten classroom with 21 students and no help, I decided that I would take parents up on their offer to help out in the classroom. I am not sure how others use their parent volunteers but I use them to help me out with projects that would make me go crazy if I attempted to do it with 21 students all at once. For the most part, the parents that volunteer in my class help the children with art projects that reinforce what we have been working on in class.

Today for instance, I had a mother in to help in the morning and another mother in to help in the afternoon. Seeing as this past week was Education Week and the theme was “Go Make A Difference” at our school, one of the projects that our committee asked us to do was to write postcards that could be sent to soldiers. This project made me a little nervous because many of my students can write their name but they find it difficult to copy off the board.  Thanks to these two wonderful mothers, the students were able to work in small groups (two or three kids) with one adult. The parent helped the students make sure that the letters were formed legibly and that they signed their name in a reasonable location on the card.  By having a parent do this for me I was able to continue along with the activities and lessons that I had planned and we accomplished twice as much in one day than I would have ordinarily been able to do.

I have noticed that I have fewer parent volunteers this year than normal and I believe that it is due in part to the fact that parents need to have a Criminal Record Check done before they are allowed in the classroom. I understand that this has become necessary in today’s society but it sure makes it hard for me to encourage parents to help out in the classroom. However, even with fewer numbers, the parents that have volunteered are more than willing to come in often. I feel somewhat bad asking them for help but each time someone is in my classroom they seem to always leave thanking me for letting them come in.  I can’t seem to get them to understand that I feel as if it should be me thanking them (and I definitely do) because they have made my day so much easier and given the students to do some work that we might not have otherwise been able to do.

For any of you out there who are parents who have volunteered in the classroom or who in the future would like to volunteer in your child’s classroom what kind of activities do you like to do/would you like to do? Do you prefer working with the students or working in the background helping to organize different things? I would love to hear different ways that I can utilize the help of parents in the future.

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Comments on: "Parent Volunteers" (7)

  1. I’ve helped out in the classrooms of all 4 of my children, performing various tasks. I would suggest that you ask the parents how they would like to help. Some parents are quite happy to help out with the preparation of learning resources and others are not. Think of ways the parents who work may also be able to help out. Working parents can likely help prepare learning materials or even help with the class newsletter.

    I never had to fill out a criminal record check, but that would not have been a barrier. I am wondering if the schools have made it easy for parents to get this done. I am a volunteer for the World Junior Hockey Tournament in Calgary this Dec/Jan and I also had to fill out a criminal record check. That was done the same night I went to accept my volunteer role, so it was very convenient. Had I been required to go down to the police station myself and fill it out, I may not have done so – good intentions are not always enough.

    Keep asking for help for specific tasks or projects. Parents may worry that you need them on a regular basis or that you might only give them busy work when they want more.

  2. Most parents of children this age LOVE to be in the classroom because it gives them another perspective on their child, and reassures them that their little person is coping with learning and socializing. I relished those days when my 2 kids were that age – nothing made me happier, so go ahead… make (their) day! Don’t hold back.

  3. It is great to read about the positive experiences that you are having with the parents in your classroom. (I just posted about some negative parent experiences…I kind of feel like a pessimist now haha!). I teach middle years, so most of my experiences with parent volunteers are with field trips. Like you, I find the Criminal Record Check to be a hassle. However, I definitely see the reasoning behind it.

    When I taught grade 4, learning multiplication facts was one of the longer math units. I had parents come each week to “quiz” the students on their math facts for a game that I created, and the students and parents looked forward to this time each week. I’ve also had parents and grandparents in to read to the students as “guest readers” and “guest authors”. I have also had them assist the class when we were making some of our art projects. I think that asking for help for specific tasks, as Laura said, really helps, as the parents are more willing to volunteer if they know what they are required to do.

  4. We have required Criminal Record Checks in our system for several years and I have found it to be very exclusive. It is unclear what records will bar a parent from the school, yet many parents may be embarrassed or ashamed if they have a record and will not get one. I can understand requiring one if a parent is working with students unsupervised, but even if I have a guest in the classroom or go on a supervised field trip, a Criminal Record Check is required. I think that this policy keeps a lot of parents from helping out, particularly in schools with a low SES status.

    • I totally agree. We’ve had the Criminal Record Check in place for as long as I’ve been teaching, but as you said, some parents may not wish to have it done. In my community, most parents are willing to have it done – it’s just a hassle to go during work hours or after work and actually have it completed at the police station. Plus, I hate that it doesn’t carry over year after year. For parents, having to get it completed each year is an additional hassle.

  5. I have parent volunteers in my classroom pretty much every day and greatly appreciate them! I definately notice a difference when they are not there! They are always involved with the students- whether it be reading one on one, practicing sight words, or working with a small group of students on a phonics game. We also have special projects that we need extra helpers for such as pumpking carving or gingerbread house making. The kids are so excited to have them in the classroom as well. I have never had criminal record checks be an issue- we give them the form and they fill it out and drop it off at our police station. The main issue is that most families have both parents working, so they would like to come help, but are at work! I wonder if this is why you have seen a drop in volunteers Honni? I try to involve these parents who can’t come during the day but would like to help with sending special things such as icing for gingerbread houses- but I always wonder how I can get my parents more involved that are not able to physically be in the school.

  6. This year will probably be the only year I can help in my child’s class. As a teacher it is a little hard to get away and I can’t call in sick and show up at her school!

    I like doing both…being with the kids and helping behind the scenes. I know how much work goes into preparing things and how tedious some of that work can be. This year I sent playdough to the school for her class and will do whatever her teacher needs done…if she asks!

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