Making Parent Volunteers in the Classroom a Win-Win-Win
Volunteer class time help in the primary grades can benefit you, your class, and your parent volunteers.
By Mollie Moore
In the primary grades, managing parent volunteers is part of a teacher’s job description. For many teachers, assistance is welcome, while for others, hosting volunteers seems to create more work and stress. Then there are those teachers who welcome the help of certain parents, but hesitate to accept the offer from just anyone. Regardless of your personal preferences, every teacher has the potential to make use of parent volunteers in a way that benefits everyone involved—parent, teacher, and students. Keep in mind these few simple tips and turn having classroom volunteers into a win-win-win!
Acknowledge Your Volunteers
Everybody wants to be appreciated. A volunteer who feels recognized and valued will be inclined to return, not to mention eager to offer assistance in whatever ways are most needed. If you have a minute or two when your volunteer arrives, greet him/her personally and express your gratitude for the help. Otherwise, greet and acknowledge the parent in front of your class—“Hi Mr. Jones, we are so happy to have you with us today!”—and have the students echo a similar greeting.
Assign Volunteers Fun, Simple, and Purposeful Tasks
Set your volunteer up to enjoy his/her time in your classroom. Remember, your guest wants to get a glimpse into his/her child’s school day, not run errands to the office or tutor your most challenging pupil. A parent also wants to know that his/her time volunteered was worth it to you. Assign duties that are truly helpful to you.
Provide Clear, Written Instructions
Upon any parent’s first visit to your classroom, always make it a priority to offer verbal instructions in addition to written instructions. However, for all visits, whether or not you have a chance to deliver them verbally, providing written instructions will take the pressure off of the volunteer to remember exactly what you would like him/her to do. This will also demonstrate to your volunteer that you took the time to think through and thoughtfully plan for his/her time in your classroom.
Plan for Parent-Student Interaction
Not only do parents love a chance to work with their child and his/her classmates, but students also benefit from an occasional change of teaching style. Group rotations in which a parent oversees one station in the rotation can provide a wonderful opportunity for such exposure to varied teaching styles. Furthermore, children enjoy the excitement of doing something new or interacting with someone different in the midst of their regular classroom routine. Avoiding direct interaction between pupils and any kind of classroom guest will typically lead to greater distraction. In cases where a volunteer will work with only a select group of students or individuals, it may be wise to let the class know ahead of time that those who do not get to work with the parent on this particular day will have an opportunity the next time a parent volunteer is present.
Before you know it, your parent volunteers will be itching to come back, you will be missing them when they are on vacation, and your little learners will be on their best behavior when they know a parent is on his/her way to your classroom!
Youngsters respond positively to their own parent’s involvement in the classroom. Have a plan for encouraging even the most unlikely of parents to volunteer their time in your classroom. Also, be prepared for how to deal with the logistics of hosting parent helpers.
Each parent volunteer offers unique skills and temperaments. Discover the most effective ways to involve your volunteers in your classroom.