I was a teacher long before I became a parent. I taught in a small, private preschool that catered to suburban families looking for an early childhood experience rather than simply babysitting for their preschoolers. Every family was required to volunteer 25 hours of their time, or pay a $250 fee.
There were plenty of families who opted to pay the fee and simply drop off and pick up their children at the appointed times. Fast forward a few years, and I now have one child in a local public school, and one in a private preschool. The private preschool has that 25 volunteer hours requirement, the public school simply has a voluntary list-serve you can sign up for if you’d like to know about volunteer opportunities.
In the private school, I’ve dabbled in a few projects for the school, and am nearly done with my 25 hours of time for the school year (which is good, because there are only 11 days of school left). In the public school, I’ve committed myself to volunteering in the school library twice a week, re-shelving books. My husband has committed to volunteering in the school supply store twice per month, and tends to sign up for events rather than a recurring gig. We both work and we both have other obligations, but we’ve decided to make volunteering at the kids’ schools a priority.
Why? It’s not because I miss teaching. It’s not because I need to make grown-up friends. It’s because it’s the right thing to do and because research shows that it (parental involvement) increases school achievement in children.
Even with our erratic schedules, we’ve found that volunteering is easy once you make it a habit. If helping teachers with take home work, manning the student store and re-shelving library books improves my daughter’s school experience, then I’m all for it. As an added bonus, the school administrators know me by name. I’ve met many of the teachers in the school, and I’ve met most of my daughter’s classmates. What’s interesting though, is that I’ve only met about five other parents. Either we’re volunteering at other times, or they’re not volunteering.
This article from the NEA details many of the reasons why parents don’t walk through the school doors with their children. Shift work, language barriers, and feelings of inadequacy can all play a role. As someone who has recently been appointed (I would say elected, but no one was vying for the job) an officer of the my daughter’s school’s PTA, it’s an article I’m taking to heart.
Were your parents involved in your education? Did they volunteer? What kind of school volunteer opportunities would be interesting to you?