When you see or hear the word “volunteering” what do you feel? Do you feel anxious, sweaty, happy, eager or even scared? If you feel anxious, sweaty or scared, you are not alone. But why do so many parents feel this way? We feel these things because we’ve been lead to believe that if we can’t give a ton of time, money or resources, we will be looked at as being a bad parent. Or, we think that moms who volunteer will be bubbly, irritating, control freaks. You might even have flash backs to the movie Bad Moms where the Queen of Volunteering was so over-the-top, that she drove people away. It’s funny…but not reality!
As another school year approaches, I thought I’d try to dispel this belief. So, I’m going to spell out some of the ways volunteering benefits the school and you. My hope is that by doing so, volunteering will be something you will actually look forward to. I am in NO WAY an expert, but I’ve been volunteering in my kids’ schools since 2002. I’ve done everything from cutting up papers for teachers to being the High School Booster Club President. So, before you throw away that “will you volunteer this year?” paper the school sends home, let me walk you through why this is something all parents should be doing.
- You don’t have to be qualified to volunteer. I always tell new parents that there are two pre-requisites for being a school volunteer: 1.) you must have a child at that school (although they won’t turn away grandparents, neighbors or parents of graduates) and 2.) you must have a pulse. That’s it! No talents or ideas needed. No blood or saliva testing. It’s that easy!
- You really do have the time. Every parent is busy but the good thing about volunteering is that it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Don’t worry if you can only volunteer 1 time during a school year. It all helps! When I had 3 kids 4 years and under, I asked the teacher what I could do to help that didn’t require me to be at the school. She sent home with my oldest, papers that needed to be sorted, cut or organized. She would give me instructions and then I would do them at home and send them back with my son. Easy & quick! It was a HUGE help to her and I loved being a part of the class without being there or getting a sitter for my other two kids.
- You get to know the teacher, staff and kids in class. If you are able to go to the school, you will be amazed how quickly you get to learn the teachers, staff and other kids your child is surrounded with 8 hours a day. I’ve formed some great friendships with the staff and I love knowing exactly who my kid is talking about when he/she describes their day. And as the kids went through school, some of those same “little” friends are now college roommates.
- You can affect positive change for your schools and the kids. If you are able to sit on committees or boards, you have the opportunity to create positive change that can help the staff and kids. You can share your ideas from your paying job, past experiences or ideas that are new. You can learn from others about what works and doesn’t work and then figure out how to make improvements. Whether your kids go to public, private or homeschooling, there are things that need to be worked on!
- You will work with some pretty amazing people. This is my favorite reason why parents should volunteer. I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from some great teachers and parents. Knowing these teachers and staff on a first name basis, makes me feel like the school is an extension of our home. And the other parents whom I met in 2002 and after, are now some of my dearest friends. You learn a lot about someone when you work with them and interact with their children.
So, before you break out in a sweat when reading the “will you volunteer” form, take a moment to just breathe. Think about what you want your child’s school experience to be like. Can you help in any way?
…the answer is always YES!