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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
September 14, 2016

Back to School: Organizing and Using Parent Volunteers

By Nancy Jang
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    If you are lucky enough to have parents who want to volunteer in your class, don’t be afraid to put them to use! It allows nervous parents to get to know you and your teaching style, and helps them to understand what your expectations of the students are. In some cases, parents learn a thing or two as well!

    My first few years teaching, I didn't like having parents volunteer in my room. I thought it was more trouble and stress than it was worth. I was nervous having parents in class and I didn't know how to use their time. But over the years, I grew to realize that if I had some tools to help me organize volunteers, I could save myself a ton of time, and the students could reap the benefits. Now, I am thrilled to have an army of volunteers consisting of moms, dads, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. I appreciate that they want to spend some of their time in our classroom, and it makes my life so much easier. In fact, now I try to recruit early in the school year to fill my schedule.

    During back-to-school night, I post a paper schedule of what shifts are available and allow parents to sign up based on their own availability. I love last minute drop-in helpers, but I ask that everyone on the schedule commit to be a regular weekly volunteer.

    I also post the volunteer schedule onto Google Docs and email anyone who didn’t attend back-to-school night to sign up. If they are interested in volunteering, I send a classroom Volunteer Agreement. I have included an editable word document for you to download. I used Scholastic's free Word Workshop tool to create the cute borders on the agreement, and if you could check out the alternatives if you want to go for a look that suits your style.

    When the parents arrive to volunteer, they have a special desk area set up for them stocked with office supplies, a paper cutter, a class list, a notebook with a to-do list and instructions, and a bin with various folders. Some parents want to work with kids, while others prefer cutting construction paper and photocopying, etc. They complete the items listed and cross it off the list. Anything that doesn’t get completed is left for the next volunteer.

     

    If there is a parent with a special talent or job, be sure to maximize it! This year, I have an awesome volunteer who works as a personal trainer. She powers through my to-do lists and does an amazing job teaching PE!

    Have a volunteer that is artistic? Then assign them to decorate your bulletin boards and door. Event planners are natural party planners and parents that are handy with tools can be put to work assembling furniture, putting up blinds or curtains, or repairing shelves. I love a parent who considers themselves detail oriented, to line up and hang my student work. If you have parents that can only come in once in a while, ask them to be a Mystery Reader (check out this post by fellow blogger Genia Connell to see how she uses Mystery Readers). You can also ask them come in and be a guest speaker and share about their careers or special interests. One year, I had a parent who was a chiropractor teach the kids about the human skeleton. It was a perfect complement to our Halloween festivities.

    If you have a parent who can't come into class, but would like to help from home, try a parent volunteer To-Go box. These plastic boxes were originally intended for scrapbooking projects, but I use them for things that can be sent home to prep. I send the box home with materials, quick directions, and a sample if needed. Many times it's tracing and cutting paper, or gathering supplies for a science project. Other times, it's as simple as sharpening a hundred pencils.

    Have an unexpected volunteer drop in on you? Busy teaching and can't stop to give instructions to the volunteer? Or do you just need some ideas for things that parent volunteers can help with? Here is a list of jobs that I have volunteers complete on a regular basis!

    • Photocopying (I clip the original with a small slip of paper with copy instructions and put it in the copy folder. Click here for the copy instructions slip.)

    • Die cutting letters and laminating

    • Prepping art materials such as cutting construction paper

    • Make-up work with students

    • Mounting student work on bulletin boards

    • Filing student work into portfolios

    • Cleaning and organizing the classroom library

    • Sharpening pencils (I don’t let my students use the electric pencil sharpener)

    • Repairing damaged books

    • Returning items to their correct places

    • Stuffing student mailboxes with flyers

    • Processing Scholastic Books orders

    • Reading books with kids who are at-risk

    • Labeling materials such as folders, classroom library books, pencils

    • Taking pictures of students and printing the pictures

    • Decorating the classroom door monthly

    • Fixing broken items like bookshelves, pencil sharpeners, and games

    • Monitoring students during centers

    • Cleaning and organizing centers and games

    • Stapling packets

    • ​Playing games to review sight words or math facts

    • Reading aloud to students

    • Cleaning paints, brushes, and glue bottles

    • Setting up PE equipment

    • Troubleshooting and helping students with iPads or computers

    • Publish student writing

    • Preparing homework packets

    • Checking homework folders for notes and field trip forms etc.

    I hope these helpful hints allow you to take command of your army of volunteers and make having volunteers in your classroom stress free!

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

    If you are lucky enough to have parents who want to volunteer in your class, don’t be afraid to put them to use! It allows nervous parents to get to know you and your teaching style, and helps them to understand what your expectations of the students are. In some cases, parents learn a thing or two as well!

    My first few years teaching, I didn't like having parents volunteer in my room. I thought it was more trouble and stress than it was worth. I was nervous having parents in class and I didn't know how to use their time. But over the years, I grew to realize that if I had some tools to help me organize volunteers, I could save myself a ton of time, and the students could reap the benefits. Now, I am thrilled to have an army of volunteers consisting of moms, dads, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. I appreciate that they want to spend some of their time in our classroom, and it makes my life so much easier. In fact, now I try to recruit early in the school year to fill my schedule.

    During back-to-school night, I post a paper schedule of what shifts are available and allow parents to sign up based on their own availability. I love last minute drop-in helpers, but I ask that everyone on the schedule commit to be a regular weekly volunteer.

    I also post the volunteer schedule onto Google Docs and email anyone who didn’t attend back-to-school night to sign up. If they are interested in volunteering, I send a classroom Volunteer Agreement. I have included an editable word document for you to download. I used Scholastic's free Word Workshop tool to create the cute borders on the agreement, and if you could check out the alternatives if you want to go for a look that suits your style.

    When the parents arrive to volunteer, they have a special desk area set up for them stocked with office supplies, a paper cutter, a class list, a notebook with a to-do list and instructions, and a bin with various folders. Some parents want to work with kids, while others prefer cutting construction paper and photocopying, etc. They complete the items listed and cross it off the list. Anything that doesn’t get completed is left for the next volunteer.

     

    If there is a parent with a special talent or job, be sure to maximize it! This year, I have an awesome volunteer who works as a personal trainer. She powers through my to-do lists and does an amazing job teaching PE!

    Have a volunteer that is artistic? Then assign them to decorate your bulletin boards and door. Event planners are natural party planners and parents that are handy with tools can be put to work assembling furniture, putting up blinds or curtains, or repairing shelves. I love a parent who considers themselves detail oriented, to line up and hang my student work. If you have parents that can only come in once in a while, ask them to be a Mystery Reader (check out this post by fellow blogger Genia Connell to see how she uses Mystery Readers). You can also ask them come in and be a guest speaker and share about their careers or special interests. One year, I had a parent who was a chiropractor teach the kids about the human skeleton. It was a perfect complement to our Halloween festivities.

    If you have a parent who can't come into class, but would like to help from home, try a parent volunteer To-Go box. These plastic boxes were originally intended for scrapbooking projects, but I use them for things that can be sent home to prep. I send the box home with materials, quick directions, and a sample if needed. Many times it's tracing and cutting paper, or gathering supplies for a science project. Other times, it's as simple as sharpening a hundred pencils.

    Have an unexpected volunteer drop in on you? Busy teaching and can't stop to give instructions to the volunteer? Or do you just need some ideas for things that parent volunteers can help with? Here is a list of jobs that I have volunteers complete on a regular basis!

    • Photocopying (I clip the original with a small slip of paper with copy instructions and put it in the copy folder. Click here for the copy instructions slip.)

    • Die cutting letters and laminating

    • Prepping art materials such as cutting construction paper

    • Make-up work with students

    • Mounting student work on bulletin boards

    • Filing student work into portfolios

    • Cleaning and organizing the classroom library

    • Sharpening pencils (I don’t let my students use the electric pencil sharpener)

    • Repairing damaged books

    • Returning items to their correct places

    • Stuffing student mailboxes with flyers

    • Processing Scholastic Books orders

    • Reading books with kids who are at-risk

    • Labeling materials such as folders, classroom library books, pencils

    • Taking pictures of students and printing the pictures

    • Decorating the classroom door monthly

    • Fixing broken items like bookshelves, pencil sharpeners, and games

    • Monitoring students during centers

    • Cleaning and organizing centers and games

    • Stapling packets

    • ​Playing games to review sight words or math facts

    • Reading aloud to students

    • Cleaning paints, brushes, and glue bottles

    • Setting up PE equipment

    • Troubleshooting and helping students with iPads or computers

    • Publish student writing

    • Preparing homework packets

    • Checking homework folders for notes and field trip forms etc.

    I hope these helpful hints allow you to take command of your army of volunteers and make having volunteers in your classroom stress free!

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

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