MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL
BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT
When I was growing up, my mom was a familiar sight at my elementary and high school. Of course, since there were 12 of us Greenwood kids, she had children in several grades at any given time. Mama served as room mother and PTA president and won Mother of the Year more times than I can remember. Her investment of time in our schools sent a message to us that our education was important. Well, that and the fact that she and Daddy were coughing up tuition for a dozen kids at a parochial school.
When my own four kids started school, I loved being on their campus. It gave me a chance to meet their friends and get to know their teachers. I could stay abreast of what they were learning, understand their daily activities, and by organizing fundraisers and recruiting volunteers, expand their schools’ offerings. By doing my part in making their school better, I hoped to teach my kids to give of themselves to make their community better. And by being involved I was privy to school trends and fads — good or bad — and could address them with my kids when necessary.
Getting Started Sadly, many schools today must raise their own funds for activities and supplies. They do this with the help of parent volunteers. It’s never too late to start being involved in your child’s school. In most volunteer situations, 80% of the work is carried out by 20% of the people. And, believe me, that burnt-out 20% will welcome your help with open arms. Joining your school’s PTO and attending the meetings is a great way to hear about volunteer opportunities as they come up. If it’s early in the school year, inquire about what opportunities are available at Meet the Teacher night or open house. Or call the school, ask for the name and contact information of the PTO president and/or volunteer coordinator, and give them a ring. During my half-dozen years as a school volunteer coordinator, those were my favorite calls to receive.
Giving of Yourself Don’t worry if you work during school hours. There are always after-hours events or work you can complete at home on your own time. Feel free to suggest volunteer work if you have an idea or area of expertise. As a freelance writer, I’ve offered to speak to creative writing classes. I’ve been blessed beyond belief to read to classes from preschool through junior high. (Older kids love having a chapter book read aloud to them.) And as a beekeeper, I’ve loved introducing kids to the wonders of honeybees.
Make a Difference Volunteering is a great way to make friends with other parents. Even if your older child protests, deep down, they’re probably thrilled to have you there investing in and enhancing their educational experience. Remember, volunteering not only benefits your child. It helps the teacher, class, school, and community at large.