(This is the third and final blog post on becoming a school volunteer. Click here to see the previous post in this series.)

By now, I know you are dying to help out at you child’s school. So, how do you start?

The best place to get started is by attending you school’s open house, parent-teacher meetings or other school events. You can also ask the school principal or your child’s teacher how to begin.

It may be helpful to think about the following questions:

Think about YOUR needs:

  • How much time do you have? When are you available?
  • Can you offer help on a regular schedule, or only on specific projects?
  • What are your strengths and limitations?

Ask about what the SCHOOL needs:

  • When does staff need help? How often?
  • Are there any special rules, routines, or policies you should be aware of?
  • What are the best times and ways to communicate with staff? (e.g. email, phone, text)

And finally some advice…

Don’t be afraid to set limits – Volunteer burnout often leads to schools loosing out on great volunteers. You can only do good in the world if you are a healthy, balanced person. (And nobody likes being around a stressed-out burned out husk of a human being.) Moreover, your involvement will be more valuable to the school in the long run if you can stay involved over over time.

Be there to help ALL kids, not just yours  – You and your child will benefit from your school involvement. Nonetheless, volunteers are there to serve the whole school community. Nobody wants a classroom volunteer that is only interested in serving their own child.

Be honest about your limitations  – If you don’t feel comfortable reading aloud or working with younger children, say so. It’s better to be up front in the beginning than to get into a situation that is over your head.

Don’t be a hero – Ask for help and be open to the type of help you get. No contribution is too small–if another parent can only help out here or there, be thankful of his or her contributions and you are more likely to get more help in the future. Many people choose not to volunteer because they are fearful of being judged by other parents who can commit more time. Encouraging involvement from other parents will lighten your load over the long haul and make the work more fun!

Be respectful of your role as a VOLUNTEER – Once you get involved in a project, it is understandable to feel a sense of ownership. Nonetheless, being a regular school volunteer doesn’t give you the right to direct school staff (that’s the principal’s job), and it doesn’t exclude you from following school rules. Even if everyone knows you, sign in at the front desk and wear appropriate identification. Turn your cell phone off (please), and be respectful of other social and cultural norms of the school.

That’s it! Did I miss anything? What are your thoughts? Is there any more advice you would offer to potential school volunteers?

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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