Parental involvement in the classroom has had a proven, positive effect on children's success. But how do you find time in your already-busy schedule to volunteer? Try these 38 simple ways to make the most of the upcoming school year.
On your very last day of school, you probably relished the fact that you'd never have to step foot in a classroom ever again. Goodbye, homework! So long, teachers! School is out, for good.
Until you became a parent, that is.
According to decades of scientific research—including a study from the Department of Education that reviews 30 years of research—parental involvement in the classroom is a key factor in improving students' academic performance. Returning to the classroom and showing up to school translates into your child's overall success.
With study after study revealing the dramatic impact of parental presence, it's been drilled into the heads of moms and dads across the country that they must make an effort in their children's classrooms. Sure, you know that's what you need to do, but do you know how to do it?
Between demanding work schedules, family responsibilities, household upkeep, frequent errands and cooking for what sometimes seems like a small army, it may seem impossible to find time to devote to being in yet another place at another time, all school year long. But even the busiest parents can get involved in the classroom without spending time they don't have or stretching themselves too thin. The secret is knowing how to allocate your limited availability and which small-scale ideas have a big impact.
The Power of Three Hours
Volunteering in the classroom for just three hours over the course of the entire school year is enough to make an impact. In fact, this idea is the foundation of The National Parent-Teacher Association's Three for Me program, encouraging and guiding busy parents through different ways to get involved at their children's schools.
With free online resources, sample forms, promotional fliers and a forum for idea-sharing, Three for Me does a huge part of the time-consuming work for you—all you need to focus on is your child. So, find just three hours over the course of nine months to volunteer in your child's classroom, and you'll be helping set him up for success not just now, but in the future as well.
Get 8 ideas for how you can get involved in the classrooms of younger and older children
According to Danielle Wood, editor-in-chief of Education.com, the best opportunities for classroom involvement occur when kids are younger. "Teachers are eager to have extra eyes, ears and hands in the classroom to keep things running smoothly," she says. She shares some simple ideas for how parents can get involved at both the early and later stages of their children's academic careers.
- Be a class reader. Offer to come in to read to the whole class of children or to individual children who need more support.
- Work as a center/lab helper. Teaching things like science, art and computer lab to young children requires lots of hands-on help, and under tight budgets, these are often the first areas to be cut. If you have an interest in one of these areas, offer to come in once a week to lend a hand.
- Offer to tutor. Teachers usually have to teach to a wide range of abilities. Having parents on hand to give one-on-one support to students on the high and low ends of the spectrum gives the teacher more time to focus on the middle.
- Volunteer as class parent. If you have more time to give, this is a fantastic opportunity, usually involving organizing parties and teacher gifts throughout the year.
Learn about the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and get 20 of PTA's ways to get involved
- Assist with a special interest club or drama group. With teachers being asked to do more and more with fewer resources, sometimes it's up to parents to keep extracurricular activities going.
- Speak to classes about your career or special expertise. One of the most important gifts you can give a child is the gift of inspiration. Older kids have moved beyond wanting to be a fireman or the president and need role models to teach them about other career opportunities.
- Work as library assistant. Helping kids discover books they love or research topics they're excited about can be a really rewarding experience for parents.
- Volunteer to help with sports programs. Keeping kids active is critical to their physical and emotional health. Parent involvement can do a lot for increasingly underfunded school sports programs.
National Standards for Family-School Partnerships
PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships is a simple, six-step program that you can follow to stay on track with your involvement. According to the implementation guide, there are a variety of ways you can make each standard a reality at your child's school.
1. Make all families feel welcome.
2. Communicate effectively.
- Greet other parents at school activities and events; sit with someone you don't know and get to know them.
- Recruit bilingual parents to greet and interpret for families whose first language isn't English. Ask the school district to provide translation headsets for parent meetings.
- Offer family activities at low or no cost so everyone can participate; budget PTA/parent group funds for this purpose.
- Hold meetings in a variety of community locations (such as the local library, a community center, a church) to make them accessible to all.
3. Support student success.
- Design and print "Happy Grams" as an easy way for teachers to regularly report positive behavior and/or achievements to parents.
- Consider using color-coded lines on hallway walls, or footprints on floors, to help direct parents to important places like the school office, parent resource center and library.
- Include a two-way communication mechanism, such as a question-and-answer section or mini survey, in each edition of your newsletter.
- Distribute calendars so parents can record upcoming events, assignments and dates to check with teachers on their children's progress.
4. Speak up for every child.
- Create a checklist and tip sheets for effective parent-teacher conferences.
- Invite teachers and professionals from the community to speak at meetings on various topics.
- Provide parent involvement tips and suggestions through signs at the school and articles in the local newspaper.
5. Share power.
- Match new families at the school with a buddy family to show them the ropes.
- Plan workshops on how to ask the right questions about children's progress and placement.
- Involve parents in ongoing training on topics such as being an effective advocate, identifying and supporting learning styles, resolving difficulties and fostering student achievement.
6. Collaborate with the community.
- Working in partnership with the principal, identify ways the PTA/parent group can support one or more goals of the school improvement plan.
- Host a forum for candidates running for public office; focus questions on issues that affect children, families and education.
- Get to know your elected officials at all levels of government, as they influence public policy decisions related to children and education.
- Reach out to senior/retired citizens and invite them to volunteer at the school.
- Work with the local newspaper to promote special events that are happening at the school.
- Invite school alumni to make a donation to the school or to participate in an alumni sponsors program through which they can volunteer time.
Get 10 final ideas and 4 online resources to help you stay involved
Additional Involvement Ideas
- Participate in PTA's Teacher Appreciation Week by organizing a breakfast or lunch.
- Get to know your child's teacher by introducing yourself and scheduling a brief meeting.
- Create a community bulletin board at the school to post information or ideas.
- Participate in PTA's Take Your Family to School Week, celebrated each February.
- Participate in American Education Week, sponsored by the National Education Association by visiting the school and classroom.
- Record yourself reading books onto tapes so children with reading challenges can enjoy them.
- Host a block meeting at your home with other parents to discuss/share school issues and info.
- Offer to drive other students/families to school-related events they wouldn't otherwise be able to attend.
- Invite other parents to join you when you volunteer at school.
- Join your local PTA.
Whether you spend three hours or three months volunteering in a way that works for you, remember that you're not just helping your child for the school year—you're setting him up for success throughout his entire academic career.
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, March 7, 2014
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