I grew up attending a small school where there were many needs but no real way to get them if the government didn't provide it. Now that my kids are in school I am experiencing something very different. The schools my kids attend have very organized ways of getting what is needed. One of the schools reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about the "soup nazi". The committee at this particular school is very uniformed and strict. I feel that it actually discourages many parents from getting involved. With that said, here are some ideas I thought I would share for those of you who want to get involved but are not sure how. These ideas do not have to be limited to just the parents of the student!
Box Tops are a great, and free, way to help out your school. Simply clip them off the product that you purchase and then turn them into the office at your school. They will know what to do from there. Most of the schools my little ones have been to have contest twice a year. The classroom that turns in the most box tops gets a prize. One school is giving a school wide prize if they hit their yearly goal. Another school my daughter went to (a small school) did not have contests but encouraged the donations so they could purchase balls for the playground.
Paper Gator (http://itsfun4me.blogspot.com/2010/12/paper-gator.html) is another great way to help the schools gain extra funds.
Ask your teacher, or even the office staff, how you can get involved in a way that will help. Last year my daughters teacher asked for volunteers. I participated once a week at a scheduled day and time each week. Early in the year I worked with the kids one on one to learn their alphabets (upper and lower case). Later in the year I worked with them one on one to increase their speed reading of mixed alphabets. It really helped me better understand what my daughter was learning and to get to know the kids she played with. That information was very helpful for our discussions at home. Some of the parents that could volunteer later in the day helped with reading groups. This was great since the normal day consisted of one teacher, one teachers assistant, and 25 kids ages 4-5!!! It allowed for smaller groups.
This year I volunteered for two days a month in my daughters class. I interact with the kids a little but this teacher mostly wants help with hanging art projects. I like helping out but I personally feel a little less productive. Especially since there is only 1 teacher and 24 kids!
Here are some other ideas if your time is limited:
- Ask the teacher if he/she has any needs in the classroom. I donate magazines that my kids are done with (that are still in good shape) so they can use them with their reading program. Maybe they need books, toys, games... They don;t always have to be new but just in good working condition. With young kids it's hard to keep things stocked when toys are broken or lost often. It's also my experience that teachers often buy the toys and games out of their own pocket to keep a variety.
- I volunteered once to come into the class as a mystery reader. I brought a book from home and read it to the kids in the class. They really enjoyed this! As a bonus, I left the book for the class to keep so they could continue to enjoy it after my visit.
- Repairs and cleaning! A side from teaching our kids, there are extra things in the class that have to be done now and then. Many times this is left to the teachers. Last year my daughter's class had cloth seat back covers with pockets on their chairs. The pockets held their individual supplies (since they sat at tables instead of desks). By Christmas break they were looking pretty bad. So I offered to take them home over break to wash and mend them. The teacher was really excited about my offer and was happy to have them looking fresh when the kids returned to school.
- Donate snacks and extra school supplies. I have a special place in my heart for little ones who do not have snacks (so far my kids have been required to bring a snack of their own every day to school) or the required supplies. This emotional burden should not be left solely on the school. Every year I donate extra snacks and supplies so the teachers can have them on hand when needed - and hopefully the kids don't know was missing.
- I love to place book orders through Scholastic Books but I always place my order online. Partly because I want to use my credit card but also because each order placed online earns a free book for that child's class!
- I always take pictures at any school events I attend. The next day I send a cd of the pictures to the teacher so she can have access to them. They always appreciate not having to be the "photographer" while they are trying to run an event.
- This isn't so much a "how to help" tip but something I feel very sincere about. I NEVER give a gift to the teacher in front of the kids (unless it's from all of the kids)!!! I remember once as a child sitting in class watching the teacher open gifts. The feeling I had at that moment has stuck to me all of my life because I did not have a gift to give. I never want another child to have that feeling. All of the gifts my children give to their teachers are delivered to the office or given to the teacher during "office hours" away from the other kids. The teachers always find a private way to thank my kids so they feel special about the gift - without interfering with others emotions.
I'm very curious to know what ideas you have so please share!