By Dennette Bailey

At the start of the school year you might be familiar with the volunteer or parent engagement form that asks you how you might be able to volunteer at your child’s school. Even though I have been a public school teacher myself, as a parent I have still experienced the shriek of guilt because I know that my schedule will not allow me to actively participate in volunteer activities on the school campus.

This guilt will start well before your child begins elementary school if they attend any formal educational or childcare setting.

When I opened my own preschool program, I was very aware from personal experience that parents need ways to be involved that don’t necessarily look like traditional volunteerism. In addition, many of the parents in my program would ask me how they could help without being on campus because they too had schedules that would not permit them to actively be in the classroom. As a result I developed a “How you can help your child’s school” information sheet that explicitly states that we appreciate how parents love their children, and their inability to be in the classroom is in no way a descriptor of their love for their child or/and expression of noncooperation. Furthermore, it states that we respect a plethora of ways that parents can help in the classroom and gives parents some suggestions.

I have shared some of the most practical ways below in hopes that they will be helpful to you!

1. Collaborate with your child’s teacher on discipline.
Discipline is not just about getting a satisfactory grade in conduct or avoiding suspension in preschool. It involves a teacher being able to clearly state the discipline expectations and parents being willing to concede that their child may have trouble in class following the rules that they normally follow at home. In this way, parents that teach their children that they are collaborating with the teacher to make sure that discipline meets classroom expectation helps the child and the learning process in the classroom.

2. Upon arrival ask the teacher if she needs time to use the rest room and offer to watch after the students so he or she can do so.
Believe it or not, having the opportunity to use the rest room is one of the top needs of a teacher, as it is not always afforded. Many teachers, myself included, have avoided drinking liquids throughout the day in fear that they would not be able to get to the restroom later in the day.

3. Make a list of things you may just have around your house that you would be willing to donate to the classroom.
Give this list to your child’s teacher to give back to you noting what he/she may need. In this way you won’t waste time getting supplies together that a teacher does not need. Feel free to put anything on your list! Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

4. Send your child to school on time.
Seriously, this helps the teacher. Teacher’s constantly use valuable class time repeating directions that have already been given because students trickle in late. In the case of classrooms with young children, late students can throw the schedule off for the whole day and a disruptive day affects all of the children in the classroom.

5. When you send in supplies, send in extra.
Sure, it is not one parent’s responsibility to supply for other children, but if we think about it from the teacher perspective, every time a child is not prepared with all of their supplies, that hinders the teacher’s ability to teach effectively and that will affect your child. It is certainly better to send an extra box of markers if it will help the teacher and the students stay on task.

6. Give a compliment!
Money and resource donations are always needed in organized educational and childcare settings, but if time, money and resources are scarce on your end … give a compliment! Verbalize what is good or write a thank you note to the teacher, director and/or staff. Tell other parents by volunteering good information about what is going on at your child’s school. This will comfort other parents as well as motivate the staff to keep doing a great job.

Just because you are not physically present in the classroom does not mean you cannot be a valuable asset to the classroom environment. If you happen to be an educator yourself, feel free to comment with additional ideas below!

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