Using Parent Volunteers in the Elementary School Classroom

As a teacher for twenty-five years, I never had time to volunteer as a parent in my own children’s classrooms, so it gave me a special appreciation for those parents who took the time to volunteer in mine. Some volunteered on their only day off from work, which seemed beyond the call of duty to me. Others volunteered almost every day, but they went beyond the call of duty too, because they sacrificed their time with no pay. I humbly take my retired teacher’s hat off to those parents today. You are amazing in many ways, and more than a few of you are saints, I must say.

How do you, as a teacher, effectively use parent volunteers in your classroom? Yes, I know, it’s true. There are 101 ways, but let’s stick with a few, important and vital ways that a parent volunteer can help you produce miracles in your classroom and even beyond into adulthood. Below, I’ll share what parent volunteers meant to me, personally.

A Familiar Face:

The parents who regularly volunteer become a familiar face throughout the entire school. Everyone knows their name and it’s almost the same as having an extra, “teacher face” They seem more like a peer than a parent. They take the time to educate themselves on child development and because of this, they end up being effective teachers and parents for even those children who are not their own. Their face is set in stone as someone familiar to your classroom, school and community. They are seen and heard, like a school celebrity.

These parents become powerful advocates for teachers and students alike. They know what’s going on, what needs to be changed and rearranged. They know who needs to be noticed and praised, which they often do. They are in tuned to each and every child in your classroom. This parent might be the first to notice a student’s inability to grasp a subject or concept. She will be the one who volunteers to tutor the child whose parent doesn’t have the time. She’s a super mom.

She runs errands for the teacher, happily and effectively. She knows how to use the laminating machine and she has access to the copy machine. She knows every teacher’s name by memory, so she will often choose which teacher has the privilege of teaching her child. Every teacher is honored when her child is placed in their class. This familiar face is a reminder to educators who need a little, parental urging to do the job they were called to do with a determined mind to reach and teach every single child who sits in her classroom. Parent’s like these move mountains for schools, the community and society.

A Helping Hand:

In all of my career, I only had one father volunteer, but he had the biggest heart and helping hands of any man I’ve ever had the privilege to know and appreciate for the courage it takes for a man to volunteer to enter a predominate female directed building, filled with hundreds of screaming children. Now, THAT’S a volunteer worth rewarding, so I gave him a trophy at the end of that year.

He’d actually schedule his vacation days to coordinate with my field trip days. He’d use his big strong hands to lead, appease and ease the anxiety ridden children by the change in their routine. He’d watch out for them so that I could teach. He’d volunteer with wisdom and ask my opinion. “What do you need me to do?”

He was wise and remained within my sight at all times. He was there for his child, but he also gave more than a few other children a male role model too and one they could look up to. In my humble opinion, that father volunteer simply hung the moon in my classroom.

Wise Advisers:

I also had a few parent volunteers that never entered my classroom. Instead, they did what they could, and even while at work or at home with an infant. They’d save my day by advising me of things going on in the world beyond my classroom view. They’d be the ones who’d call and say, “We are under a tornado watch today.”

I come from Texas, so that was a big deal for me and the entire school system to be forewarned of impending bad weather. Still, this volunteer would do other things to advise me wisely. She’d inform me any time her child experienced something unusual which she believed might affect his or her performance. She was a conscientious parent. Her child was on time for school every day, and she’d often write notes to me to communicate. She’d take it upon herself to inform me and other school personnel when she had any concerns or simply wanted to show her appreciation.

The Best of the Best:

The best volunteers did what they could, when they could, but were always open minded and extremely flexible. They appreciated the diversity in the classroom and they helped the kids to adjust to each and every teaching style. They understood the rules of school and not only expected the best of their own child, but helped me to make sure that every child was blessed with an adult who cared enough to expect the best of them as well. No child falls behind or between the cracks when you have a parent volunteer in your class. The best of the best parents will always be those who care for every child in the community.