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by Sandra Jacoby
In most classroom, the teacher to student ratio is 1 : 25…or maybe even 1 : 30. If a teacher is really lucky, she may have an aide’s help for brief intervals during the day, but essentially, as teachers, we are on our own with our students. Which can leave us scratching our heads at the end of the day, asking: Did I really meet the needs of ALL of my students? Chances are, you will always feel like one of them could have used an extra boost.
This is where classroom volunteers come in.
Extra Support for Struggling Students
Having a classroom volunteer during the school day is helpful on so many levels. They can read to the students or help them with homework or projects, allowing the teacher time to work more closely with students who need some extra support. Of course, the teacher is still responsible for everything that goes on in the classroom; volunteers aren’t babysitters. But chances are good that the class will be more productive and better behaved with extra adult supervision while you pull students aside for extra guidance.
More Opportunities for Social Interactions
A class volunteer can provide more than just academic support; students can benefit from his or her presence socially, as well. Plan games or interactive activities for the time with the volunteer–activities like an outdoor scavenger hunt during science or group work on a messy project. These activities might seem overwhelming or “more trouble than they’re worth” when you’re alone, but they’re much more manageable and enjoyable with an extra adult around.
Every Parent Makes a Great Volunteer
Any parent willing to be in your classroom is going to make a great volunteer. Never turn away a qualifying parent, but rather, provide structured ways they can help. Be sure you have a specific plan for what they will be doing in the classroom so that they feel productive and you feel in control of your class. These days, it is especially great to have male volunteers. So many children today are lacking positive male role models–particularly in an educational setting. If you can recruit a daddy or two, more power to you!
Recruit Early and Often
The easiest way to recruit volunteers is to post a sign-up sheet at the beginning of the year (during orientation or open house), where parents can note that they’re interested in volunteering. Then, don’t be afraid to call or e-mail them to ask for help!
Since it’s obviously well into the school year right now, you can still recruit volunteers. Send home a note with a detachable bottom portion that says: “We could use a helping hand in the classroom!” Then, list several areas of help that parents can check, such as: reading to students, having students read to you, assisting during projects or art time, accompanying us to the playground, cutting and posting bulletin board materials, and helping students while they work at their desks.
Remember, you may be the only adult in your classroom, but this doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! You have a whole brood of parents who love their kiddos and would gladly lend a hand if they knew you needed help.
Sandra Jacoby is a teacher in Texas who enjoys the challenges and rewards of teaching her pre-kindergarten class.