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Volunteer Quickies


Q. We both work fulltime during school hours. How can we get involved as school volunteers?


Parental involvement is of crucial importance, both to an individual child's attitudes and academic performance, and to the improvement of the school as a whole. But parents are busy. How to be the most effective in the least amount of available time? Ideas:


1.       Set a goal of offering three hours of your time to your child's school this year. That's on top of monitoring homework, attending parent-teacher conferences and going to performances, science fairs, art shows, sporting events, and the like. Just contact your child's teacher, the principal or the parent group, and be clear about your constraints when you offer your time. They may assign you to the welcome table at Open House or the clean-up crew after the school carnival; those are both important tasks and your gift of time will be most welcome!


2.       Think of ways your unique set of interests and skills might come in handy at school. Think of ways to support your child's favorite subjects and strengths. Then make your call, either to your child's teacher or to a counselor, coach or administrator.


3.       Be flexible! Ask for jobs you can do on your own time, at home and online, as well as during school hours at the school building. Here are ways that your skills can match involvement:


         Educational: read stories, brainstorm at a writer's workshop, give simple assessments, coach a group giving a presentation, supply costumes for a play


         Clerical: cut out shapes for a bulletin board, plastic-comb bind student stories into books, collate handouts, type a student directory, proofread the student handbook, bulk-mail the school newsletter, shred tests.


         Construction: build a shelf, paint a door, fix cupboard hinges, remove gum from carpet, "undrip" a faucet, repair floor tiles.


         Landscaping: learning and service come together in the development of a school garden or school club to do regular plant care: good for science, history, art and writing projects.


         Finance: write a grant proposal, keep books for the PTA, run concessions at a weekend sports tournament.


         Leadership: guest speaker at Career Day, coach a team of students related to your profession such as a mock trial or junior detective group, host a field trip to your place of business, raise money for a weight room or to send journalism or debate students to a national contest.


         Political: Form a cost-cutting or lobbying parents' committee, or research action group.


Homework: A school can really help attract volunteers by having a list of well-defined volunteer job descriptions. See this helpful article on creative ideas for getting and giving help.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 27 2008


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