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6 Ways to Parent Volunteer When You Don’t Have Much Time

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I was a public school teacher for twelve years. When I taught kindergarten, parent volunteers were more numerous than in the years I taught fourth and fifth-graders. Additionally, I see the level of parent volunteerism differs from school-to-school. It is much higher at my son’s elementary school than it was at the school where I taught.

Yet, I’m here to tell you parent volunteers are necessary. We are now into the second semester of the school year, but in no means, is the need for parent volunteers decreasing.

Some parents have a regularly scheduled time slot, where you come into your child’s class and assist with various tasks whether it be stapling papers, sharpening pencils, or reading with a child. But for some parents – who have a work schedule to adhere to – a regular time slot isn’t an option. However, there are still ways for you to volunteer. And remember, volunteering is a win-win for everyone your child’s teacher gets some much needed assistance, your child sees you in a different light, and you can get to see your child at his job, the job of a student.

Still, if you don’t know how you’ll manage the time to volunteer, here are a few suggestions for ways you can help your child’s class.

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  1. Come in when you can.  Maybe it’s possible to report to work a little later one day a month.  Use that time to help in your child’s classroom. But plan the day and time in advance with your child’s teacher. Be honest and up front with the teacher; let the teacher know that this is taking some maneuvering on your part, and you want to be sure the teacher will have work for you to do while you’re in the class.
  2. Be a reader.  When I taught kindergarten, I invited my students’ families to be readers.  Some parents (and one grandmother) took me up on the offer, and periodically, we would plan days and times for them to come in and read a picture book to our class. It’s a small-time-commitment, and the children always enjoyed having someone else sit in the teacher’s seat and read to them.  Talk to your child’s teacher about topics they’re studying and/or suggestions for books.)
  3. Offer to help at home.  Especially in the younger grades, there is a multitude of cutting to do. You can cut at home. You can also staple papers or sharpen pencils. You can do it on your own time. Some teachers don’t want to impose and ask parents to take things home to do; if your child’s teacher hasn’t asked, make the offer anyway.
  4. Contribute with supplies.  Maybe you still can’t make it into the classroom. But you do make it to the market/Costco/Target on a regular basis. Contribute what your child’s class needs. Ask your child what his class is always running low on (most likely tissues, paper towels, baby wipes, disinfectant wipes). Check with the teacher about her supply levels. And then tell the teacher you’re planning a shopping trip and will pick up the necessary items.
  5. Think non-school hours.  Volunteering doesn’t just have to happen during school hours. Many teachers arrive early and stay late. Maybe you’ve got twenty minutes to spare before the school bell rings and you have to head off to work. Maybe you can help change a bulletin board, straighten up the library corner, or refill glue bottles.
  6. Ask about future activities.  Teachers are planners, and most often, they’ve got field trips and special day activities planned far out in advance.  Teachers don’t, however, always tell our students about their plans until a few weeks before. If you need additional notice, mention it to your child’s teacher and ask what’s coming up in the months ahead. With some advance notice, you may be able to change your work schedule and join in when the class takes their walking field trip to the public library.

And know, that whatever you can do, whenever you can do it, your efforts are appreciated.


Wendy Kennar (397 Posts)

Wendy is a freelance writer who finds inspiration in her nine-year-old son and from her experiences from her twelve-year teaching career. Her writing has appeared in several publications and anthologies, both in print and online. She prefers sunflowers to roses and thinks chocolate is okay at any meal. You can find her at

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