As a former teacher, I know first-hand that teaching is exhausting. Before Ethan was born, I taught public school for seven years and often stayed late, took work home with me and still felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day. (And, this was before I was a mother!) So, when Ethan started in PPCD (Public Preschool for Children with Disabilities) almost 5 years ago, I made it a point to help his teachers with as many tasks as they could/would delegate on a weekly basis. With each passing year, my volunteerism at Ethan’s school has fluctuated based on our family (and my work) schedule/responsibilities and on the teachers’ needs for assistance. Last year I wasn’t able to spend much time (on a weekly basis) helping Ethan’s classroom teacher. I did volunteer to help with special events (like field trips, picture days, silent auction, etc.) This year when I met Ethan’s new GenEd classroom teacher, I told her I’d be glad to volunteer my time as needed…and she has taken me up on that offer and has put me to work! In the first 3 weeks I’ve assisted with preparing book orders, assembling take home folders, making copies, punching holes and cutting materials for lessons.
I have to admit – it feels good to help. I like knowing that by making copies, cutting, punching holes and the like, Ethan’s GenEd teacher will have more time/energy to focus on the kids and their needs (imagine that!) in the coming week. Also, I like to think that she will be more relaxed in the evenings and weekends which will enable her to enjoy her family time and sleep/rest well so she will be refreshed, patient and energetic with Ethan and his classmates. (When I was a GenEd classroom teacher, I used to sleep fitfully and have bad dreams when I felt behind with lesson preparations and paperwork…unfortunately there weren’t many parents who were able to volunteer in the school where I worked.) It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: we all want our children to get the best their teacher has to offer.
Every single year the paperwork and responsibilities of teachers seems to multiply. (Especially when it comes to SpEd teachers…there seems to be more and more forms for SpEd teachers to keep up with every year.) Yet, teachers don’t get any extra time to make it all happen, do they? Over the past decade I’ve seen “planning periods” shrink to the bare minimum required by the state while teachers’ responsibilities have continued to increase.
So, if you can dedicate an hour or two (every month, or every week), I’ll bet your child’s teacher(s) would be ecstatic and truly grateful to have some help; and as a result, I have a feeling that your child (not just his/her teacher) will also benefit from your efforts. Not only will the teacher(s) feel more calm and focused (which totally affects our kiddos), but your child will see you helping and view you as part of his/her school team.
Along those same lines, an added benefit to regularly volunteering at your child’s school – the whole staff will see that you are involved and invested! When I was at Ethan’s school for about an hour this morning, I saw not only his GenEd teacher and front office staff, but also the Music teacher, the Counselor and various other grade level teachers. I like observing how all of the teachers and staff interact with kids, both neurotypical and those with special needs, too. Spending time at Ethan’s school helps me get a good feel for the general/shared atmosphere, attitude and approach to education.
Never underestimate the value of “face time,” especially when you’re volunteering with a smile!
I’d love to know, are you volunteering at your child’s public, private or charter school this year? Check out this article: 10 Tips for Classroom Volunteers from Great Schools for some really great suggestions about volunteering in your child’s school. Do you have any additional tips/insights you’d like to share?
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is a writer and editor for the projectLD family of companies. Leigh is Assistant Editor of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007. Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.