Volunteering in the classroom is good for kids and parents too!

Opportunities for parents to participate in their children’s classrooms broadly range anywhere from reading a book to talking about their careers. One constant, however, is the positive effect it has on the children. In early grades, equivalent in status to being queen-for-a-day or birthday boy, having one’s parent in class for any length of time is deemed super special.

When my oldest child’s kindergarten teacher invited the parents to come spend time in her classroom, I initially felt unqualified. That is, until she went on to explain how much the children truly enjoyed and benefited from having their parents participate in class, regardless of what they took on.

I’ll admit that the first time my husband and I hosted a craft in our daughter’s kindergarten classroom, it was a little scary. My biggest concern was that we might do something to embarrass her. But I’ve since come to understand that during those early school years, parents would generally have to do something really awful to manage embarrassing their children. After all, kindergarteners generally love showcasing their parents.

I needn’t have worried, because our child was giddy with excitement as she proudly introduced us to all of her classmates. And the teacher was great help, assisting us with the task at hand. That first year, we made empty toilet paper roll butterflies.  Pre-planning helps keep things moving along smoothly, especially when dealing with five-year-olds.  So, I had made up a bag for each child in the classroom as well as a few extras, just in case they were needed.  Each bag contained an empty toilet paper roll, two googly eyes, pipe cleaners for the antennas, pre-cut construction paper wings and stickers to decorate them with.  I had pre-punched three holes into the tops of each roll so that two antennas and one string (for hanging) could easily be added.  The whole craft didn’t take more than 30 minutes.

Maybe it’s because we started from kindergarten and kept returning every year, but our kids loved it.  So much so, that it became an annual tradition. Every year, we visit and do a craft in each of my four children’s classes. And every year, I try to do something different.  Of course, some crafts have worked out better than others, but every one was met with active participation from the students and was an overall success.

I still look forward to my annual class visits as much as the children do. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I decided a long time ago that 5th grade would be the cut-off. And with this year marking my 10th year of classroom crafts, I can see the end drawing nearer.

I had originally picked crafts because crafts are my thing, something I enjoy doing.  But, any form of participation will have the same effect.  From reading a book to telling an animated story, from sharing the details of your job to assisting the teacher when needed – simply having their parents involved in the classroom or activity at the school, is all that really matters to most children. But, above all, it sends an underlying message that school must be pretty important if Mom and Dad want to be a part of it too.

So, should you find yourself with a little spare time throughout the school year, consider volunteering in your child’s classroom.  It is an excellent opportunity to get to know your child’s classmates and teacher, but best of all, it will create memories that the two of you can treasure for a lifetime.

Charline Cormier-Pellerin

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