14 Ways to Help Your Child's School
Share your talents. If you're a professional public relations whiz, why not help publicize the school's upcoming fundraiser? This can range from a major time commitment to just writing a press release or making a few phone calls to local newspapers or radio stations. If sewing is your hobby, offer to make costumes for the school play and round up some junior assistants to help you. Are you a storyteller? A puppeteer? A good cook? Share your skills with a class.
Give the teacher a break. With large class sizes, teachers can always use an extra pair of hands. Offer to come in on a regular basis or whenever you have time to work with small reading groups or help the kids struggling with algebra with some one-on-one attention.
Join your child for lunch. A simple way to be involved is to occasionally eat lunch at school with your child. Busy lunchrooms often welcome extra adults who can monitor behavior and give children a chance to practice conversation skills.
Involve your employer. Does your office throw out excess folders, paper, pens or other supplies that your child's school can use? Do they dump usable computers when they upgrade? Do they print up key chains, pencils or other promotional items that can be donated for prizes at a school fair? Check out what's available and round up some kids to make an after-school delivery. Your employer can be a valuable partner for your child's school by helping to print flyers, giving work-site tours or providing a facility for a fundraiser. Make sure the boss gets a thank-you letter from the school to pave the way for future involvement.
Talk about your career. Teachers usually welcome parents to come in to talk to the class about their careers, especially if it relates to what they're studying. If you're a nutritionist, come in during National Nutrition Week and talk about healthy eating habits. If you're a scientist, offer to conduct some special experiments. If your child's class is learning about the Internet and you work for a dot.com, show them first hand how it works.
Bring in the experts. Even if you don't have expertise in an area your child is studying, perhaps you can help find some people who do. Work with the teacher to round up local artists, authors and experts to help bring the curriculum to life. Then come in and moderate the panel.
Help out the school. Offer your services to the school as a whole, not just your child's classroom. Every school can use an expert in computers to help set up programs and fix glitches or to supplement enrichment programs, which are the often first to get slashed when money is tight. Volunteering throughout the school helps build a sense of community. You'll also get to know other teachers and administrators in the building, which will help your child as he or she moves up in grades.
Are you connected? Help design a school Web site or teach students how to safely surf the Internet for information on a topic they're studying. If you have an older child who's a computer whiz, this may be something you can do together.
Use your artistic air. If you have an artistic talent, take your child's class to the park and teach them how to sketch the trees. Develop a unique idea for the annual Father's Day gift or help decorate the classroom for Halloween.
Go on a class trip. Even if you have to take half a day off, your child will love having you accompany the class. Talk to the teacher and check out the trip schedule so you can plan ahead and pick the most convenient time to go.
Help at a one-time event. Perhaps you could volunteer during school registration, yearly health screenings or the end-of-the-year field day. Offer to run a booth at a school fair or help set up the annual bake sale. These activities often require only a limited time commitment.
Organize a group. Maybe you see an unmet need at your school, but there's no organized group to handle it. Get one going. For example, if the arts have suffered with budget cuts, start a cultural arts team of other interested parents. Expose the classes to famous artists and their work each month or bring in local talent -- dancers, wood carvers or storytellers -- on a regular basis. Often these people will visit just for the asking.
Volunteer on the weekend. If you're too busy to help during school hours, perhaps you can keep the school looking good by helping out on the weekend. Organize a playground cleanup for a Saturday, or gather other parents and kids to plant daffodil bulbs on the school grounds. This can be a good activity to do with older kids who might be embarrassed by your presence in the school during regular hours but wouldn't mind working with you to paint a mural on a blank playground wall or help hang new nets on the basketball hoops after hours.
Volunteer from home. If you can't get into the classroom there are ways to help that you can also do with your child. Volunteers are often needed to put together a school phone book, staple copies of workbook packets or cut out hundreds of pumpkins for the harvest festival. The activity itself isn't important; it's the fact that you're doing it together. --Bethany Kandel