By Diane Ako
Every parent should spend some time volunteering at their child's school. I'm convinced of that after my so-far-short foray into the world of elementary school parenting.
Now and again, when I can carve out a spot of time, I volunteer at my daughter's school. I try to participate in every request, but I can't do many things due to my work schedule.
I'm lucky, though. I have a job that's flexible, and because I work some odd hours (early mornings, nights and weekends), I'm able to find an hour here and there to assist in class. I love it.
I had no idea what the teacher would use me for, and if you don't know either, here's my experience: I have prepped craft projects or finished them, particularly if the job involves cutting or precision. I have collated files. You know those book sale flyers you get? I did that. I wrote the code numbers and dates on 23 sets of papers, and collated three different flyers. I have taken baby fish to give to another teacher down the hall. I have returned books at the library. I work with the children on their math and reading. I check homework and dole out stickers to those who finished.
So basically, odds and ends that the teacher would otherwise have to do herself, since she has no teaching assistant.
When your child starts at school, the staff asks the parents to help out. Olivia goes to a public school, so I'm not sure how it's done at a private school where the resources are greater. I cannot remember how this was handled when I was a student at a private school, either. I would assume it's a universally open door to get the parents involved in the child's life.
I didn't know what to expect, but out of a sense of both community service and a desire to be a part of my daughter's life, I said I'd give as much time as I could.
I have gotten back much more than I could have anticipated. I love being a part of the little classroom community, and that I know the children by name, and that they know me by name. I love that when Olivia talks about her day in school, I know who she's talking about. I so appreciate getting to know the teacher, and seeing what she does with my daughter all day. I like hearing the little songs they sing, the stories they read, and the routines they practice.
It's also very rewarding to work with the individual children and feel like I'm advancing a cause, even if one as simple as learning a few new words or a new concept like "less than/ more." I've learned about myself that I like working with five year olds.
It's also been very interesting to see how Olivia handles herself in school, and to have a better sense of where she falls into the spectrum of her peers. I've never worked with children before, so it's totally new to me. Now I know: she's an excellent reader, but not a good listener!
Most of all, I love spending a little extra time with my daughter. I hope she understands that what this really translates to is that I care about her and what she's doing, and that I want to be a part of her life.
Now, I totally understand that a lot of parents have rigid work schedules and cannot. Some mom friends have expressed to me how lucky I am and that they wish they had the same luxury. I know, and I do appreciate my fortune. I also know there are many, many other ways to be involved in your child's life, so please don't feel I'm judging you if you don't volunteer in class.
However, if you can, do it! Instead of an obligation, it is really a privilege - an incredibly enriching experience- to be a parent volunteer.