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Friday, October 14, 2011

The value of volunteering in schools

You don't have to wait for field day!
Yesterday I blogged about helping out in my daughter's class briefly as I moved on to having lunch with my other daughter. But as I was blogging, I thought a lot about the value of volunteering in our kids' schools.

My older daughter's class has 30 students. That's a lot for one teacher, and certainly not ideal for learning. Years ago, my response would have been, "well, they need to hire more teachers." Ha! In this economy, there's just no money for more teachers. To which my response would have been, "well, they need to do a better job spending my tax dollars." However, after spending the past few years helping out in my children's classrooms, I know better. I watch as the teachers as careful about what they print, using both sides, and every scrap of paper. I have to hand it to our teachers- they're amazing about squeezing every penny out of every supply that goes into the classroom.

But economics aside, I've realized there's even greater value to being in the classroom than just helping the teacher. I'm establishing relationships with my children and their peers. For many children, they are finding one more safe adult to have in their lives. I know the kids who drive my kids nuts. I know the bullies. I know the popular kids. I know the kids who are starved for attention. I know the kids whose parents are really active in their lives. I learn so many things about their lives- like the kids who are upset about their parents' divorce, or the ones who feel like they don't fit in with their dozens of siblings. I can tell you who gets along with their siblings, and who thinks their siblings are pests. I wish you could see me chuckling here, because yesterday, I went into the library, and met a little girl for the first time. When I found out her name, I smiled and said, "oh, I know you! You're X's sister!" Of course, I knew that because I'd just had lunch with her and her friends complaining about what a pest she was. But boy, you should have seen how proud that little girl was to know that I knew her.

Why is all of this so important?

Because we live in a scary world where people do some crazy things that make it a really unsafe place for our kids to grow up. But by building relationships with the children around mine, I can make it safer. And, I can share values with those kids who may not realize that not all families have multiple marriages, parents who hate each other, parents who are too busy with their own lives to spend time with their kids, and that the ugliness they face at home does not have to be their story. I'm not talking about abuse here, that definitely belongs in the hands of authorities. But do you know how many kids in my kids' school feel like they don't matter? And I don't believe it's because they have bad parents. They just have parents who are really busy or are dealing with their own bad marriages, or bad situations, and they don't notice.

Parents, find a way to be involved in your kids' classrooms. This does not mean you become helicopter parents and smother your kids. But take the time to be there. Get to know the kids, and let them reveal themselves to you.

For those who don't think they have the time, make the time. I realize it's easier for me to be involved because I work from home and have a more flexible schedule. But I still do have a job. So the time I take to be in the classroom, I do make up later. One of  the moms who always helps in our school works nights, so she takes her daytime sleep time to spend an hour a week at the school. Another mom uses her day off and takes one hour from that day to come in. I also know a mom who can't get a lot of time off, so she uses vacation days to go on field trips. Even those few special days mean a lot to the kids. So get creative! Your kids, and their peers, need you.

3 comments:

Keli Gwyn said...

I spent lots of time volunteering in our daughter's school when she was younger. What a wonderful experience it was for me to see what she was learning and to get to know the kids.

Penni said...

YES.

Danica/Dream said...

Keli, it is a wonderful experience. I'm glad you got to have it.

LOL Penni!