I welcome parent volunteers in my classroom. I so appreciate the extra pair of hands–whether it is to monitor students while I teach a guided reading group or to hang a bulletin board, the help is invaluable to me. Plus I think it is a great form of PR. When parents see firsthand how I am trying to meet individual needs and create a safe, happy environment for my students, they will likely share their positive experience with others and will be more cooperative if I come to them with a concern about their child.
Managing parent volunteers can be a small job in itself, however, and requires some pre-planning and organization. I have found that some parents prefer to help with some tasks and not others and that frankly, some parents are better at certain tasks than others. I will never forget the honest parent who approached me one day and told me that she should probably not volunteer as a spelling workshop helper anymore because spelling just wasn’t her strength.
To help assess the availability and task preferences of my students’ parents, I send home a parent volunteer form the first week of school.
Once I have received the completed forms, I make out a monthly schedule of times and duties. For parents who prefer to do clerical tasks rather than work directly with students, I prepare a volunteer basket. When I write lesson plans and find that I need copies to be run, games to be made, paper to be cut, etc., etc., I place a master copy or sample in the basket with directions and “date needed by” on a sticky note. When the parent volunteers come to the classroom, they don’t have to interrupt my teaching—they just go to the volunteer basket and select a job they would like to complete. Other parents are assigned specific weekly jobs such as spelling workshop assistant, guided reading helper, listen to oral reading, etc.