What to do With Parent Helpers in the Classroom

Parent Volunteers in the Classroom. Are they an urban legend to you? Or do you have parents begging to spend more time in your room?

Field trips, having parents listen to students read, and running the annual class party are all traditional volunteer opportunities. But, if you would like to really up your parent involvement this school year, use those parents for things “outside of the box.” You’ll have so many parents, you’ll end up instead looking for parent volunteer gift ideas.

Even if you are a high school teacher, items like putting up a hallway bulletin board, prepping center materials, or even running learning centers will give the volunteer in your classroom something different than just showing up once or twice a year for the required parent teacher conferences.

Imagine:   They want to come into your classroom and you have a system in place, but all your grading is caught up, you’re not allowed to touch the copy machines so they can’t do that, and you don’t know what to do with them now, right? In the past, I’ve had parent volunteers that I have had to turn away at times because I didn’t know what they could do.  True Story.

Need some ideas for your parent volunteers? Classroom volunteers don't even have to physically be in the classroom! Check out this post for some ideas!

Now you may be watching this and screaming at the computer right now because you say, “I can’t even get a parent to answer the phone when I call, let alone come in to help out in the classroom.” That’s okay too. I’ve been on both of those ends of the spectrum as well.  I’ve had other years in other school districts where I couldn’t get a parent to come in to save my life.

The good news?  I have some ideas for you, EVEN if the parents can’t come in!  Maybe it will be a way to transition them to come in to your classroom someday. Or if they truly cannot get there.   I get it.  Everybody’s working. Mom is working two jobs.  Dad’s working two jobs.  Maybe the student stays with a grandparent most of the time or at a babysitter or at a daycare.   Transportation to get to the school just might not be an option.  They just don’t have time to come into the classroom. I’ve been on that road too.

I have been that parent too in the past.  There were lots of times when I have wanted to go to my daughter’s class when she was little and there’s no way that I could have because I had to work. I was a single parent and it just wasn’t going to happen.

BUT if I had had some things to do from home where I could have helped I might have been more apt to want to contribute my time to her classroom in that way and help her teacher.

I don’t think it’s that parents don’t want to help.  They just either don’t know what to do, they can’t get to the school, or school makes them nervous because maybe they had a bad experience while they were growing up. I don’t think someone inherently just has no interest in their child’s education. Most parents really want their child to succeed and they want to help be part of that. If they can do it from home, then that’s a fabulous option.

The great news?  I have some ideas for all of that!   WOOOOO HOOOOOO!  I am even going to put this freebie classroom volunteer form right in this blog post below so you can grab it for FREE!   Read FIRST though and then grab it.

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What is Something Parents Can Do To Encourage Volunteering?

I like to set it out and send it home at the very beginning at the school year or during Open House/Meet the Teacher Night, but you know what?  It’s never too late to get started. If it’s the last month of school, that’s okay too! 

Send it home and see who might like to help you wrap up the year. The end of the year is kind of crazy for most people, so why not get some extra help if you need it. I’m just going to go through the list of options on this form.  There are 11 different positions that parents can do throughout the school year to help in the classroom. 

Some can be done only at school, while others can be done at school or even at home!

Of course at the very top is a spot where they need to put down their name, their phone number and their email, so that way I can contact them. Even if I cannot get them on the phone I could probably do it via email.

The first one can be done at school or at home, it’s called a Book Candy Striper.   It’s assisting and repairing damaged books in the classroom library. It’s as easy as sending home 5 or 6 books a week, and sending home the materials to fix it. Whether it’s packing tape, so you send home the roll of packing tape so they can do that.

If you want them to level the books, if they need to write anything on the inside cover, if they need to add labels with your name on the back. Just send home the supplies even if it would only take you 20 minutes to do it just yourself, that’s okay.

Toss all the supplies in a little canvas handled bag that you got at the local craft store for 99 cents and send it home with that child if the parent agrees to do it at home along with the written directions. I would actually type out the directions exactly how you want it done, laminate it on hard card stock and that always lives in the Book Candy Striper bag.

Whenever you see 5 or 6 books that need a little TLC, put them together in the bag, send them home with the student, and place a sticky note that says, “Hey, can I have these back by the end of the week fixed up? That would be great!  Thanks for your help.” Pop it in the bag and go.

That’s 20 minutes you get back of your own time and that’s one of the biggest complaints that I hear from teachers that they don’t have a life outside of school. Take back that 20 minutes.

The next one is Project Surgeon, where you’re cutting, stapling, prepping copies or teacher materials. Again that can be done at school or at home. If you have the copies run and you know you’re going to make some little books, send it home with the directions.

Language Listener, I love this one because it can be done at school or at home. If you have a parent that wants to come in, or even over Skype. Use the technology. They’re listening to students simply read aloud.

I know a ton of students that would love for Grandma who lives across the country in Florida and you live in California to dial in and listen to students read for 15 minutes once a week during center time. How fun is that? You can get people from all over the world, relatives that can log in, call in and visit with your classroom during that time, it will encourage so much reading.  Even if “Fido” is listening.

Okay the next one, Homework Helper. This one probably can only be done in the classroom, but the classroom volunteer is checking in that students have brought their homework back.  Maybe not necessarily grading it because you may have some laws or regulations regarding parents grading other students’ work, but just checking it in.

They have a little check list, and can go down through the list:  Billy brought his, Jenny brought hers, etc.  They are simply checking it off so you know right away in the first 10 minutes of the day, who brought their homework back and who didn’t, and you didn’t have to take time out of your day to do it yourself.

Classroom Library Curator:   This one is in the classroom only, but they’re going to organize the classroom library for you – score!  They can level the books.  Or even better, could suggest great titles for students based on their reading levels. 

If the student has a little card with their reading levels on it or punched out on it someplace, the Classroom Library Curator can help the student pick out a great book based on their reading level.

I love this one in the classroom:  Picture Perfect Photographer. If you have a parent who is actually a professional photographer, it’s even better right? They take pictures of the approved students {make sure they know who’s been allowed to get their pictures taken during various activities throughout the year}.

Then you could even have them upload them to the class website if that isn’t already being done by another parent, or they drop them in a dropbox file for you – or another parent to use for the website, or at the end of the year they make a huge slide show with all of the pictures and send a copy to every student’s family. That would be a really, really fun thing to do.

Guest Speakers are always welcome, of course!  I always ALWAYS have that on my classroom volunteer sign up form. Talking to the students about what their real life job is and how the curriculum ties into it is amazing for broadening minds of “why do we have to learn that?”  Or be a guest reader and read a book aloud.

Again this can be done in person or over Skype, so you know George has an Uncle Billy works at NASA and you are doing a space unit. Get Uncle Billy on Skype from his job at NASA to say hello to the students and explain a little bit of what he does and how that ties in with the unit that you’re doing. It would take 10 minutes and it would be wonderful to connect real-world to the classroom learning.

I’d be excited to be called the Ultimate Party Planner over being a “Room Mom” for sure. They plan out the agendas for all of the classroom celebrations. They can co-plan it with the teacher, during the school day in the classroom, telephone, or even just through email. “Hey let’s plan this party what games do you have?” She sends you some links that you could do.

Send home the ideas, have her put together the craft, she sends it back, and it’s ready to go. It doesn’t HAVE to be done in the classroom.  She (or he) could also be contacting the other parents, and asking for food, drink, and party supply donations.  Easy peasy!

The Taste Caterer makes sure that students have enough treats for daily use or special events through out the year. They could assist in asking fellow parents to donate if the classroom is running low. Again that can be done at school or that can be done at home. 

This is an activity that parents can do from their own house and they don’t have to come to school for. If they work the night shift and they need to sleep during the day, they could either call in the morning or in the afternoon and get those things taken care of while still feeling a part of their children’s classroom experience.

Two more left:  The Pencil Proctor is where the volunteer actually does sharpening of all the pencils in the morning.

I have always kept a cup of pencils in the middle of each students’ pods of desks, and all the pencils in that cup were sharpened at the start of the day. If a student broke a pencil during the day, he or she put that one back in the cup, and grabbed a new pencil out.

You could have a parent helper, or a grandparent or another relative, arrive in the morning and sharpen all those cups of pencils so the day starts with completely sharpened pencils and you don’t have students getting up to sharpen pencils, up and down, all day long.

The last one is the Tech Guru. This role can maintain your classroom website, adding the regular newsletter file for the week, adding classroom photos, or maybe scanning in any student work that you want to showcase.

Again – this one can be done at home or at school. If they have a scanner and computer at home, send documents home in a folder with the student and the volunteer can do that right from home to update it. 

Another optional item for that role could be a school only option but to assist students with computer log in. If you have littles who are still learning how to log in to certain websites during computer time, they can come in during that particular time, if they’re available, and help the students log in and update anything else you need them updating while he or she is there.

Parent Volunteer Form

As you can see, lots and lots and lots of things on our classroom volunteer form!   I hope this was helpful in getting some ideas on what to do with those parent helpers.

I have had some parent helpers in the past that were so amazing and so organized, and as organized as I was, she organized even more. We honestly ran out of things for her to do because she was so amazing.

If I had had some of these ideas that were on this list I could have definitely had her do even more without even thinking. It’s kind of handy to have it at your fingertips and the part I love the most is that you will get a lot of parents that can help from home as well as in the school. Even if they can’t help during the school day, they might be able to help at home and participate that way.

Remember to download your freebie form below . and if you found it to be helpful, don’t keep me a secret.  Please share this page with other teacher friends on Facebook, email, or Instagram now so that I can spread the love to even more teachers everywhere.

Need some ideas for your parent volunteers? Classroom volunteers don't even have to physically be in the classroom! Check out this post for some ideas!

Have a great rest of the week all!

~Charity

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