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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Can't volunteer in the classroom?

September 15, 2009

Question: My son's teacher doesn't allow parent volunteers in the classroom. She says she has her schedule worked out and another adult in the room would make things too disruptive for the kids. I want to help in the room and like working with the kids, so now what do I do?

Answer: Thanks for the question! Volunteering is a great way to get involved at your child's school. If you read Freakonomics, you'll remember the part about "a child whose parents are involved in the PTA tend to do well in school." There's nothing magical about the PTA per say, it's the involvement and strong relationship to education that makes the difference.

Because you can't volunteer directly in your child's classroom, here are some other ways to get involved that can really help the school and the kids too.

  • If you like working directly with students, ask if there is another teacher in the building who would like a parent volunteer. While your teacher might not want parents in the room, others might, particularly in the lower grades, like K and 1. Some schools actually have policies that parents can't volunteer in their child's classroom, but are assigned to other teachers.
  • If you like working with groups of students, ask the music, art or PE teacher if they would like some help. This provides a great opportunity to see kids in a different setting. Specialists don't get offers to help nearly as often as classroom teachers do.
  • Check out the library! The librarian, sometimes called the media specialist, is likely looking for help shelving books and assisting with check out. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with new books you can share with your own children.
  • Ask if your school has a volunteer tutoring program like Book Buddies or the Howard Street Tutoring program. Research confirms that volunteer tutoring has a positive effect on student achievement. If your school doesn't have a program in place, the Washington Reading Corps Toolkit offers some terrific resources to get a program started.

I hope one of these sounds interesting to you, and I'm sure there are other opportunities at your school, perhaps through the PTO? I applaud your desire to volunteer at your child's school. I've always loved this quote from Elizabeth Andrew: Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.

Comments

I disagree with Meier completely on this one. Talk to the school principal. You should not be eliminated from your child's public education.

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