Thursday, February 3, 2011


Dear Mr. Morton- Enjoyed last Thursday’s column about all the wonderful volunteers in our area. I want to volunteer at my child’s school, but I feel my child’s teacher may feel I’m intruding. What should I do?- Mother, Port Clinton, Ohio (Photo compliment of Berkely Public Schools)

Dear Mother
- The schools won’t feel you’re meddling. They’re desperately in need of parental assistance. A few short years ago, 29 percent of America’s parents never set foot in their children’s classroom, even for parent-teacher conferences. There are many needs you could fill in your child’s budget-crunched school: working one-on-one with a special needs child; reading stories to an entire class; aiding in the library, cafeteria or on the playground; chaperoning field trips; helping teachers with mounds of paper work; or planning for holiday parties.

Contact the building principal after the kids are dismissed for the day and find out the school’s needs you could fill. When you start helping out in your child’s school- not necessarily in his classroom- prove yourself. Be on time, for time and space are luxury items in the schools. And, gain trust- don’t criticize a teacher’s methods or a school program. Learn the complexities involved in the school operations before offering constructive suggestions privately with the teacher(s) or principal.

The benefits you reap from school volunteer work should end your trepidation about entering the classroom. In the last 28 years, every major study has concluded that parental involvement has more influence on a child’s success in school than the quality of the teachers or the school itself.

Any kind of school involvement you give matters, for your visibility verifies a very important part of your child’s world. It personalizes the roughly 10,237 hours he will spend attending elementary school.

ClickN KIDS Teaching KIDS to READ and SPELL One Click at a TimeSchools need volunteers! Some give their volunteer staff a team name and matching T-shirts and badges. It gives volunteers a sense of purpose and the increased visibility makes it easier to recruit more.

I must mention the Alachua County, Florida School's Volunteer Program. Last year all of the county schools received the Florida Department of Education’s Golden School Award for outstanding volunteer participation. During 2009-2010, more than 21,000 volunteers provided over 702,000 hours of service to our schools. This represents approximately $14.6 million worth of donated services. For those school district administrators and teachers desiring an excellent resource to emulate, view the Alachua County's School Volunteer Handbook 2010-2011.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions as School Psychologist and adjunct professor in The School Of Leadership And Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. Questions about family, parenting, educational, or personal concerns? Have a photo, article, personal story to share? Contact us at the secure Bpath Mail Form. Visit his national Family Journal column.