As the 2020-2021 school year progresses — and with many changes that have taken place as some schools around the country begin to resume in-person learning — volunteering is a vital way that parents and caregivers can help support their schools and their children. Apex Leadership Co. looks at all the ways that volunteering at school benefits not only the schools, but the students and the volunteers too.

Whether school is taught in-class, online or via a hybrid format, volunteers are more essential than ever. Teachers may be working more to cover their bases with both in-class and online students, and even their personal class preparation time may have been cut short due to the fact that they are managing both an in-person and virtual classroom. For those schools that are back in class, students’ free times and breaks are likely monitored more closely by teachers to ensure safety measures are being followed at all times. This means recesses and other breaks that may have given teachers the needed time to make copies or prepare lessons for their next class may be taken up with other tasks. In this instance, an extra helping hand to help with some of these daily duties can take some of the load off these hardworking teachers. Today’s volunteer programs may have different guidelines to adhere to, so it’s important for a parent or guardian willing to help out on campus to learn about and follow any additional safety procedures.

Beyond the classroom, there may be a need for volunteers throughout campus from the front office to the library or playground. Fielding calls for the attendance line or helping to schedule meetings between parents and the principal or specific teachers, re-shelving library books or serving as an extra pair of eyes to help the duty aid at lunch time or recess are all additional ways that schools may need volunteer assistance. There are countless other ways to participate in school’s volunteering efforts such as tutoring or mentoring students, leading a special program such as Art Masterpiece, or even helping with after-school and on-campus extracurricular activities such as school plays or sports practices.

Taking on a dedicated role within a school’s PTA or PTO is a highly valuable way to volunteer. From PTO president to treasurer, there are a number of much-needed positions within a school organization like this and they are all very important to the success of the school. These organizations are the ones behind school functions such as community events and all-important fundraising efforts, too. Volunteers should understand everything that’s expected of them before taking on one of these roles, however, as they can be quite time consuming.

When offering to volunteer, it’s important to assess an area in most need. For example, elementary schools often have a plethora of volunteers whereas middle and high schools may not have as much parent interaction. Parents can start with the child’s teacher to see if there is help needed in the classroom; but if not, it’s probable that there is a need for help through the school’s administration or PTO/PTA groups. It’s a good idea to discuss what is expected of the volunteer in terms of time commitment for any volunteering in which they wish to participate. For example, one parent may just want to come in every now and then to help with classroom events or special functions, whereas another may be able to commit several hours every week to volunteering. Some campuses may have specific school volunteering programs and protocols that need to be abided by while others may be less regimented.

A great benefit of parents and guardians volunteering in school is the value it places on the child’s education and interests. It shows children and students that their education is an important investment to the parent or guardian. It is also a great way to help youth understand the value of helping out in the community when and where there is a need and being a part of something for the greater good. Volunteer work in any capacity is so important and specifically within the schools, it can be such a powerful way for parents and guardians to lead by example.

Typically, school volunteer programs are announced at the beginning of the year — from room mom signups for events like track meets or school events. At this time, the school is going to start asking for interest from parents and guardians that may be able to help volunteer. This is a good time to “toss one’s name in the hat” for any initial interest in a specific program or volunteer role. However, there is typically no time when a volunteer has “missed the boat” — schools are almost always willing to accept new and additional volunteer help as it is an invaluable resource to their staff and teachers.

Prior to considering a regular volunteer role at the school, parents or guardians should gauge their children’s feelings about this. Some students may love seeing their parents on campus or in their classrooms, while others may prefer school be just “their thing.” For younger children just entering preschool or kindergarten, having a familiar face in the classroom can be a vital part of helping them adjust to school. While others might be better served by not having their parent around all the time and instead learning to adapt to other authority figures.

Parents should respect their children’s wishes when it comes to how they feel about seeing their parents volunteering at their school. For parents that want to volunteer but whose child doesn’t feel comfortable with seeing them on campus all the time, there are other options. They should talk to their child’s teacher about some ways to help out without being on campus. For example, assisting with grading, organizing homework packets, printing worksheets or cutting construction paper for art projects, or sending class wide emails to inform parents about important upcoming dates, events or assignments are all things parents can do from home that can still serve to help the school while also respecting their child’s need for their own space at school.

Open communication between parent and child as well as parent and the school itself is essential when it comes to volunteering. Parents should speak with teachers and/or administrators to determine exactly what their needs are in terms of time, duties and even student interaction. Volunteers should be clear about how much time they can commit and their skill set or interest so they can be matched to a role in which they can best serve the school and the students. A volunteer’s role can change throughout the year as the school’s needs change so those that want to help should be flexible and understanding.

Overall volunteering in schools is such a valuable resource and is likely more needed than ever before. However, volunteering may look different at many schools or for those that are not yet back in the classroom. That doesn’t mean they don’t need help! Parents should reach out to teachers or administration to see how they can best benefit from a volunteer. Apex Leadership Co. encourages parents and guardians that want to volunteer to take that first step — it is sure to be met with much appreciation