Thursday, March 26, 2009

Volunteer At A School - They Need You

My youngest son is 4 years old. He recently started preschool at a nearby church. I was as excited about this milestone for myself as I was for him. I planned to dedicate my new found free time to working diligently on my current novel. Then I read all the paperwork that accompanied my son's admission. Surprise! I was expected to volunteer in Ethan's classroom at least three times during the school year.

At first, this frustrated me. I went to my selfish place and figuratively had a tantrum that my little piece of freedom was being encroached upon. I didn't stay there very long because I realized that my little boy's childhood is speeding by as fast as lightening and I didn't want to miss it.

Yesterday his eyes lit up and he held my hand as we walked into the school. "This is so awesome, Mom," he said. I helped his teacher, Ms. Kelly, prepare the crafts, serve snack, and clean up at the end of the day. Ethan stayed near me all day and occassionaly blurted out to one of his classmates, "Hey, that's my mom!" Now it was my turn to beam with pride.

I watched the children's reactions when they found out they were making puffy flowers with glue and shaving cream...messy, fabulous fun....and I was thankful to be there and be part of it. It did me a world of good to remember the joys of childhood and how simple life can be if I don't complicate it.

Ms. Kelly appreciated the help and thanked me at the end of the day. I'm going back in May to help her again. Our children's teachers need us - our time, our commitment and our support. Also, our children need us to participate in their education. If they see learning is important to us then it will take on a new meaning to them.

Educators complain that parents use schools as babysitters and surrogate parents. What if adults had to sign a contract to volunteer in the public school where their child attends - like I had to for my son's preschool? Would things be different in that community?

Sign up with a teacher to be a helper for the day. Elementary schools are always looking for volunteers, as are secondary and high schools. Don't be leery of the big kids. They need us, too.


Jens Upton said...


great article!

reminded me of the fun messy moments I had as a kid at school. Still have messy times when I cook or paint.
I think there can be great results from having 'available' parents volunteer at schools. Maybe governments should declare that if parents are willingly then employers and schools must be flexible.


Lisa McGlaun said...


That would be great, if employers would be flexible. My husband and I are lucky. He's always worked for companies who were fine with him taking time off to attend school functions and to volunteer.

He's salaried so maybe that makes a different. He just goes in later and makes up the time and as long as his work is done, no one seems to mind.

I know it's much harder when you're punching a time clock.

Thank for the comment,

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you two had a wonderful time. Wish we were close enough to volunteer too. Maybe we'll do that next time we come. Kids love to have their parents and grandparents come to school -- and admit it, at least until middle-school. Once, when my Mom visited us here, Sandee took her to school for "show-and-tell." Grandma was thrilled. I think it was second grade. MomMc

Lisa McGlaun said...

Mom Mc,

I think you should let Ethan take you to school for show and tell! That would be wonderful.

Can't wait to see you again.


Laurie said...

Great article! It's so true, reminds me of my mom and my childhood.


CindyLV said...

Hi Lisa,

I enjoyed your article. Not having any kids of my own, I feel a little left out of the whole school experience. When I've gone back home, I've been an "assistant lunch lady" with my Sister-In-Law at her daughters' school. I was even picked second for kickball at recess (and that NEVER happend while I was in school!).

I think parents should be required to help out at their kids' school. It's an investment in their future.


Cindy Mueller

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,

This is a great article. I have the luxury of working at a small college, and I do what I can to mentor the still young minds who enter this institution.

I've come here today because I need uplifting. I've stopped writing for many months now because of my father's illness. Now that he passed away a week and a half ago, I have time to reflect on what a terrific dad he was and to write again. I miss writing, blogging, and my online friends. Your blog is inspirational and I came here first when the desire to get back online arrived.

Back to your article, we all have influence on students, and working in an academic setting, I appreciate your call for volunteers at schools is welcome. Thanks, Lisa. -Mike.

Gina Stepp said...

Lisa, I'm so glad you brought up this topic--our school is only in its second year as a charter school and it's already got a stellar performance academically. Why? Primarily because the level of parent involvement is so high. It's really amazing to see how everyone steps up to the plate in this little school community, and what a difference it makes to the students.

Sometimes it's a challenge for me to get away from work to help out in the classroom, but I've been able to get away for field trips--and I donate my time in other ways whenever I can. I've also noticed that even if I come by to donate a great flea-market find or drop off a forgotten snack, my daughters' faces light up at just seeing me in their daytime environment. I've come to realize it makes a connection for them--they see their school as an important community if I show I see it that way too.

navami said...