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Volunteering at Your Child's School

Making Time to Volunteer at Your Child's School

You work full time, take classes, and you have a life. But you're also a parent, and you're looking for a way to be a bigger part of your child's world, to make a difference in your child's life. One way to accomplish this is to volunteer at your child's school.

Your participation in school activities demonstrates an active interest in your child's studies -- a major boost to her self esteem. Academic abilities may also improve as a result of your increased involvement in your child's school life. You send a consistent, powerful message: "I care about you. It is important to me to be involved in your school life. You are important to me."

Getting Involved
The first step is to contact the school. Many schools already have a volunteer program in place and can immediately assign you to an area where your assistance will be most valuable. Even if your availability is sporadic, it is still likely that your help will be needed and welcomed. With budget cuts affecting most public schools, the time you invest volunteering can really make a difference to the entire school as well as to your child.

Regular Volunteering
If your schedule allows, you can sign up to be a regular volunteer at the school. Remember, regular doesn't necessarily mean full-time -- even if you only have an hour a week to spare, invest that hour in your child by helping out at his school. Consider these options:

  • Tutoring: Do numbers add up to lots of fun for you? Parlez-vous fran├žais? Offer to tutor students in your favorite subject after school ends in the afternoon. If you're patient, one-on-one tutoring is an excellent opportunity to develop a close relationship with a child, and to make a real difference in her academic career. Most schools will require a year-long commitment from volunteer tutors in order to protect students -- imagine how your own child would feel if her favorite teacher left midway through the year.
  • Assisting: During school hours you can be an assistant to the school staff members. You might be assigned to an elementary teacher in a regular classroom or a special staff member such as the librarian. The general office can also benefit by having someone helping with the photocopies and other clerical work. Lunch programs also rely on volunteers to help supervise overloaded cafeterias.

Occasional Volunteering
Volunteering doesn't have to mean giving up all your free time. Even if you work forty hours a week and manage five kids full-time, you can still volunteer occasionally. There are plenty of opportunities for you to put your hands to work -- briefly.

  • Bake Sales: Make two or three cakes in the beginning of the year and freeze them. When the PTA announces their next bake sale -- usually held during parent-teacher conferences or Open School Night -- just defrost and deliver!
  • Telephone Chains: If there's an emergency school closing, a telephone chain alerts all parents to the situation and ensures no one will be left siting by the curb waiting for a ride home. You can type up and distribute copies of the phone chain, or just offer to be a primary caller.
  • Exchange Student Hosting: It sounds like a lot of work, but hosting a foreign exchange student is actually an easy way to relieve yourself of any other responsibility for the entire year. Most exchange students are at least fifteen years old and won't demand a lot of your time. Will you really notice if you're cooking for four rather than three?
  • Field Trips: If you have extra vacation days to your credit, serving as a field trip supervisor can be a great way to spend a day with your child and have a blast. Spend a day apple picking, touring a museum, or catching a Broadway play -- for free!
  • Career Day: Speaking at career day lets your child and his friends see a different side of you, and it will only take about an hour of your time. If your schedule allows, consider organizing the event. Round up the speakers and be a resource person for the children.

Your school might need you help to set up the volunteering program. Each program is different and has its own needs. Find out where you can help, and start making a difference today. A few hours now and then might not seem like a lot to you, but your child will reap long-term benefits from this quality time.

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