Thursday, September 13, 2012

* What Kind of Volunteer Are You At School?

As September and the new school year get into full swing, it's that time of year again.
Time to decide what to sign up for and what kind of volunteer
commitments to make at one's school. For me, life gets a bit easier this year
because now that both of my girls are attending the same school, I can 
co-ordinate my volunteer efforts in one building instead of trying to be 
in two places at one time that run on different bell schedules! 

I recently read an article by Lynne Ticknor over at Mom's Homeroom
about getting involved at your children's school called "Know Thyself" 
she talked about identifying ways to balance your already packed schedule 
by weighing your skill sets, 
how much time do you have available,
does location matter (volunteering from home vs. at school),
and does your child even want you to volunteer?
This balance is something I've struggled with every year
 that my own daughters have been in school.

I've always helped out in one way or another at my daughter's schools.
Some years, I've been able to do more than others.
It has varied with our schedules and other commitments. 
When "E" was still an only child and "C" was still a bun in the oven,
I was able to volunteer at her preschool more often.
Then when "C" was a baby, I did more stuff for E's teachers from home.
Once "C" started preschool I was able to go into both classrooms again.
I try to play to my strengths so for me that's art.

 Behind the scenes volunteer work was easier for me 
when "C" as a baby could be toted along in a car seat,
or as a toddler could sit down with some snacks and a toy while I helped out. 
That was when I did things like put up hallway displays,
make visual aides, and classroom manipulatives
like sensory boxes and felt boards for various teachers. 

When "C" was at her little morning program preschool,
I was able to go into "E" elementary school and volunteer with their 
Art in the Schools program.
Once a month, I taught her class an art history lesson and 
we did a fine art lesson in connection with that month's artist. 
It was a fun way for me to "teach" art again and spend time with "E and her classmates.

What if you're not artsy? That's okay too. 
Just show up. Figure out your strengths and play to them 
(there's a list at the end of this post that can help you figure out what you're best suited for.)
Show up.
Do what you can to show your kids that they matter to you.
If they see that their school and their education is important to you, 
it will be important to them too.
Teachers and administrators notice this too. 
If you work full time, you can still find ways to help out.

My husband and I have enjoyed chaperoning field trips 
(he just has to plan ahead and take a half day off of work.)
We take turns so "E" gets one on one time with us
and we each get to know her friends a classmates a bit better.

We don't go on all of their trips, but we do try 
to go along on at least one each year.

I also have been known to help out with class parties,
prepping food or running a craft station (big surprise, I know) 
I've also enjoyed helping out with fundraising by making class projects
for silent auctions and various fundraisers. 

Evaluate your own personality. Are you more comfortable interacting
with kids and adults as an extrovert or are you more of an introvert (like me) 
who is more comfortable hiding behind the scenes? 

The Mom's Homeroom article identified 4 types of volunteers:

The Active Aide - likes to be in on the action. 
Think: Field Day, the dunk booth at the school carnival, relay races.
Moving bleachers and tables for concerts/activities.
Shelve books in the library.

Do you enjoy shopping? Collect money and organize the class gifts
for your teacher. Or, put together silent auction baskets for a fundraiser.

The Social Servant - extroverted and a social butterfly.
Think: leadership positions with the PTA, overseeing volunteers and 
co-ordinating major school events.

Cafeteria Host or hostess - doesn't mind being in the middle of the chaos
and thrives on helping others (I actually shut down in this situation!)
These volunteers get physically recharged by helping out this way

(BTW, it makes me want to run and hide)
I've noticed these folks are also super-organized list makers.

The Creative Cohort - the artsy fartsy one. (e.g. ME - shocker!)
This person is drawn to the arts. 
Think: art lessons, art gallery field trips,
painting projects and helping with silent auction group art projects. 
Hanging art in hallways, arranging display cases. 

Do you enjoy photography? 
Why not take class photos and put together an album for the teacher
with a photo site like Shutterfly or volunteer with the school yearbook?

The Technical Temp - technology assistance.
Think: computer lab, set up class websites, find on-line resources for staff,
and tutor children one-on-one.

These aren't the only types of volunteers but they do seem to be 
the ones I run into the most often over the years.
Figure out what you're comfortable with and see how you can 
contribute and give back to your child's school. 
If you find something that fits your own personality and temperament
you'll be much happier giving back. 

Which one will you be?

Pink and Green Mama
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