Parent volunteers in the classroom can be quite intimidating - even for the most seasoned teachers. Using parent volunteers has many benefits to your classroom that often outweigh the intimidation factor. Not only do administration usually love when you have parents working as partners, it can make a positive difference in your classroom.
Starting with Classroom Volunteers
You can get started any time of the school year with parent volunteers in the classroom. If you are a new teacher, it might be overwhelming to try and start with volunteers right from the start.
Sometimes it can be tough getting organized or feeling like you aren’t “ready” for volunteers yet. When you feel ready it's the perfect time to get started. I can help.
The first step to using classroom volunteers is to brainstorm a list of things you think they could do to help.
A small list of things I could quickly think of are: making copies, filing, 1:1 assessments, cutting out laminating, preparing for laminating, stapling booklets or packets, take a sight word group or word study group, science demonstrations, centers preparation, centers management, putting together birthday bags, labeling, organizing, and reading to the class.
Parent Volunteers Can Volunteer at Home
Did you know that parent volunteers do not have to come to the school?
I personally like to send materials home to parents. Many parents want to volunteer but their work hours conflict with those of the school. Most of what I send home are things that need to be laminated, cut, labeled, or organized. One year I had a very trustworthy parent and sent home my personal laminator, laminating sheets, and the printed centers I needed laminated. She sent everything back exactly the way I needed it.
Another year we got a new phonics program that had a ton of word cards that needed to be separated for the pocket chart. I sent home stacks of the perforated pages home in manila envelopes and parents that volunteered tore them apart and sent them back. Then it was easy for me to file for when I needed them.
Trying to create writing or math toolkits? Why not send the supplies home with a student? I would recommend sending a complete kit home for a sample. Parents would love to help out (and they get to see a little bit about what their child will be using in the classroom).
Some other things that parent volunteers can do at home are:
- Cutting materials
- Cutting lamination
- Stapling booklets
- Tracing or cutting for a project
Where to Start with Parent Volunteers in the Classroom
Now that you know what you can do with your parent volunteers, where do you start? I would start with asking your school office staff or administration what the policy is to have volunteers. Some schools require fingerprinting, background checks, and badges for any visitors that are working directly with students. Other schools might not require all of these things but have a limit to how many hours a parent can volunteer each month or throughout the year.
Once you determine what the school rule is for bringing in onsite volunteers, it’s time to send home a volunteer sign up sheet. I’ve done this as a Google form, paper copy, and Class Dojo message. Whatever works best for you! I saw one recently that had all the different jobs the parent could do for the classroom with boxes for them to check. This would really streamline the process of who is coming in or volunteering from home.
Don’t be afraid to reach out when you have a specific task that needs parent volunteers either. One of the biggest barriers for parents not helping out is they might not know what they can do. When you have a specific thing in mind, it’s easy for them to say yes to helping.
Be Prepared for Parent Volunteers in the Classroom
If you are planning to have parents come into your classroom and volunteer, make sure you are organized and ready. In the past I have known teammates who have a bucket labeled volunteers that parents know to come in and check the bucket for work. Within the bucket she had labeled things as needing to be copied, graded, or cut.
I personally would not ask parent volunteers to help with grading as that can violate FERPA privacy for students but there are many other things they can help out with instead.
Having parent volunteers in the classroom doesn’t have to be another thing to add to our plates. Think of it instead as an opportunity to get help with some of the repetitive tasks that you just don’t have time for.