This idea may be as unwelcome as another load of laundry, but working parents should try to volunteer at their child’s school.
For starters, they need you. Whether you are an accountant or a flight attendant, you have skills and insights that are useful. Sometimes, schools just need responsible adults to help man the fort. The most successful schools are those with the proverbial village behind them. The more you give, the more you get back.
As a volunteer, you gain a better understanding of teachers, curricula, and daily activities. One dad said he liked seeing how his daughter interacted with classmates. A working mom, who took on lunchroom and carpool duties at her children's schools, said the best part of volunteering was seeing more of her kids. “[Before this], I almost never got to see my kids in school,” she said.
Volunteering can help your child improve academically. If you are lucky enough to be in her class, you can give her tips such as, “I think you would learn more if you sat closer to the teacher,” or “Have you really read the same Garfield book for the past two weeks during free read?” You might discover five jackets in her cubby or an insanely messy desk (thus explaining missed homework assignments).
But, here’s the rub — your workday overlaps with school hours.
Not to worry. There are other ideal volunteer opportunities for working (or just busy) parents. While being a room parent is a great way to give back if you’re available, there are many less time-consuming tasks you can take on.
Consider one-time commitments, such as helping out with picture day or working in a booth at the fall festival. If you find a good job, try to stick with it.
What You Can Do to Volunteer
The first thing to do is speak to a teacher, fundraising chair, or committee person. Let her know that you want to help but have a tight schedule. If you’ve never volunteered before, approach the teacher to ask if she needs any help. Tell her that you are not above collating math packets or organizing the Scholastic book orders, either of which you can do at home on your own time.
Here are some other volunteer opportunities working parents can consider:
Parents who work close to their children’s school say this is the best task to take on. Why? It’s an easy hour and a great way to see a lot of kids, including your own. You’re probably free during lunchtime anyway, and you may even get a meal.
Find activities that you are already taking your own child to. Are your kids part of the garden club or basketball team? Is there a way for you to act as a coach or helper during these activities or at the events? For example, one mom in our school’s chess club arranged the tournament ladder each week.
Is your school looking to raise money for a specific event or purchase? Find fundraising sponsors and event underwriters: While you may have to miss some meetings, offer to help find five sponsors for a school event. Get the specifics, and make a few calls or visits.
Speak to a class about your job. Your company will love the exposure and may even let you miss a few hours to make the event.
This is a particularly great opportunity if you can tie it in with your work. If your child is participating in the fair, then all the better. You’re already there, so offer to help out.
There is often a luncheon for teachers, sometimes during the first parent-teacher conferences and again in the spring during Teacher Appreciation Week. If you volunteer to organize it, you may be responsible for ordering food, arranging donations, and directing a committee. This event also requires someone to collect cards from kids and get a gift for the teacher. Sometimes, the class parent does this, but it could also be you!
If you are dropping off or picking up your child around the same time, spend another 20 minutes or so to help direct traffic or facilitate drop-off.
Detention or Study Hall
The timing could work for you because it’s during afternoon hours. All you have to do is keep students quiet and watch the clock.