Each classroom has different needs and every teacher has different preferences for how they feel that parents can help. Grade levels and class sizes make a difference in needs and support staff that is available from school to school will vary which means that the needs that are present also vary. However, with all of these variables there are things that any parent can do with a few extra hours a week that will make a big difference for teachers.
All parents get the information about volunteering for supervising a field trip or working with the Parent Teacher Association. While these help the school, there are many other parents who already do these things as well and it can seem like what you are doing in these positions does not make a big difference or gets lost in the bigger picture. However, if you want to pitch in to help your child’s class in a noticeable way there are a few things almost every teacher can use help with.
The biggest tip is to communicate openly with your child’s teacher. Walk in with your child on a regular day, a few weeks after school has started when there is a normal routine established. This will give you a few minutes to talk to the teacher about any specific needs they have when they are not busy with a dozen other tasks as well. This can also be done as school is getting out one day. The open house or first day of school may not be the best time to do this because they may be too busy to think about what their needs are day to day or may not be able to anticipate what those needs will be later on with this particular class of students. When you are having this conversation be sure to volunteer that you can help in the following four ways.
1.) You are willing to make all of their copies of worksheets and study guides each week. Also, if you are computer savvy you can offer to make worksheets or spelling word practice sheets for the whole class on your own time. This can usually be accomplished by going to the school for a few hours at an appointed time when they have all of the materials gathered up for you and making the copies as well as any sorting and grouping that may need to be done.
2.) You are willing to make their bulletin boards for them. Teachers often have a plan for their bulletin boards however, when they are in the hallway this is something they cannot do while they have students in the classroom. They will be happy to give you the materials and instructions, maybe even pictures to guide you, but the hour you spend putting these together is an hour the teacher has to spend with their students.
3.) You are willing to read to students, let student’s read to you, help them with letter sounds, math problems, etc. May students may not get a lot of help after the school day ends. For example, if a Kindergarten student has to fill in a reading log of books that have been read to them and their goal is 200 for the year, if there is not reading happening at home too then they will not be able to meet that goal. However, if a parent can come to the school to read to a few students an afternoon or two a week, that can help them make up some of that and meet their goals. The same is true for other students that need extra practice but the teacher is limited by the number of students they have in the class, you can really make a difference for teachers and a lot of kids in this way.
4.) Plan an activity. This will vary by grade and teachers as well. Some teachers allow special things for different holidays while others give kids a little free time on Fridays for good behavior. Some teachers may need a little help to fill in a few hours with some students on an afternoon a week while they are helping other students or may need something to occupy to class while they give one on one exams to students. Either way, if you can plan a craft, game, or project that is related to a holiday or lesson then the teacher may appreciate the effort and ask you to spend that time helping the class with it. It would also be greatly appreciated if you plan something like this if you can provide the supplies for the class to do it as well.
If you are already at the school to volunteer and are finished with your assigned tasks, there will always be someone who could use a helping hand. Ask the P.E. teacher if they could use a hand, help the librarian shelve books, do not limit yourself to your child’s classroom; offer to help other teachers too, or ask the school secretary if there are any other tasks that you could help with. By letting the staff know that you are ready and willing to help, you will find more to do and more ways to help.