How busy parents can volunteer in schools

Parent volunteerMany parents feel overwhelmed by the idea of volunteering in their children's schools, but there are ways for busy parents to help out.

People always ask Charmesha Young, “How do you do it?”

The Columbia mom works full time as an accountant but finds time to volunteer frequently at her children’s schools and even serves as PTA president at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge.

“People are shocked. They’re like, ‘You work?’” Young says, laughing.

Young's son is a fourth-grader at Deep Run, and in addition to being PTA president, she often helps in the classroom or with school activities. Her daughter is an eighth-grader at Mayfield Woods Middle School, where Young helps with fundraisers and school activities.

Not everyone can find the time to volunteer as much as Young, but she says it's important to do something. It impacts the students and connects parents to the school, the teachers, their students' classmates, and even what the kids are learning, she says.

Volunteering shows children that their parents are interested and care about their education, says Traci Ramsey, the school liaison to the parent association at Indian Creek School in Crownsville.

“Everyone has an hour to give. We know we’re all busy and no one can take on a 40-hour-a-week volunteer role, but my biggest message is always give a little or give a lot,” Ramsey says.

Whether parents help daily, weekly, monthly or once in a while, it doesn’t matter, Ramsey says. What's important is that they volunteer in some capacity. Below are some volunteering tips and ideas for busy parents.

Communicate

Touch base with your children’s teachers to let them know you are interested in volunteering — even if you can’t take on the role of room parent. Ask what is needed and how you might help in or outside the classroom.

Young suggests contacting the PTA to ask what kind of volunteers the school needs. Many PTA events happen after school hours such as Bingo nights, school dances and holiday shops.

Pick an area of personal interest

Volunteering isn’t limited to helping in the classroom during the school day. Parents are always needed, whether it’s taking photos for the yearbook, crunching numbers for fundraisers, organizing school dances or working on a school newsletter, Ramsey says.

“If you’re passionate about something, you’re going to love to be involved,” she says.
Katie Beale, kindergarten teacher at Deep Run Elementary, says she asks parents what hobbies or interests they have, and this helps decide where their talents can be utilized.

Work behind the scenes

A teacher’s day is not done when students go home. Often they are grading papers, planning, cleaning up and preparing for the next day. Parents can help from home by cutting out pieces for a project, assembling math games or repairing torn books, Beale says.

“All of these things make my job easier,” she explains.

Teachers won’t always request this kind of help, so parents should occasionally ask if any help is needed.

Coordinate and organize

One way to help from home is to help coordinate activities or events, Young says. This could mean emailing parents to ask for volunteers, supplies, or help planning field trips or special assemblies. Research and communication can be done mostly online and after school hours.

Provide necessities

If time is more of an issue than money, give resources instead. Ask the teacher for a list of her classroom needs and send in a few items. Provide supplies for a class project or school party. Bake goodies for a teacher luncheon or donate money to the PTA to help with school programs or resources.

“A simple gesture of gratitude goes a long way,” Ramsey says.

By Kristy MacKaben