As a kindergarten teacher, I feel it is my job to get parents involved with their child’s education and school community. My thinking behind this is that if I can get them to be involved with their child’s first years of school, they will continue involved throughout their child's educational career. The big question is, how do we get them involved?
When I first started teaching, most of my students had stay-at-home moms. These moms would volunteer each week in the classroom, helping at centers or doing prep work. Times, however, have changed, and most families don’t have stay-at-home moms. In fact, many parents are working more than one job, and so finding time to help isn’t as easy as it used to be. I have found that most parents genuinely want to help, but either they don’t feel they have the time or they feel that they lack the skills needed to assist and work in the classroom.
So, I use back-to-school night to pitch the many ways to contribute to those parents who are able. First, I send home a helper calendar and parent helper information sheet. I use the information sheet to find out when they are available and how they would like to help. Some parents want to work with children in center groups; others are more comfortable with the tedious prep work that consumes the life of a kindergarten teacher.
Below are examples of ways parents help on a daily basis in my room.
Take Home Helper — Students take the helper envelope home and return it by a specified date. These envelopes contain prep work such as papers to collate and staple, laminates to be cut apart, workbooks to tear apart, or books to make. Tape or glue a sheet on the outside where you can specify the return date. HINT: Laminate the envelopes for durability.
Homework Helper — As students arrive, parents take the homework out of the folder, put the new homework in, and make a record on the homework chart. (Estimated time: 10-15 minutes)
Book Bags — On Fridays, collect the book bags, check them in and then check them out to the students for the following Monday. (Estimated time: 20 minutes)
Morning Reading Time — Parents stay the first 10–15 minutes of the day and read books to children. You could also have them review students with flash cards for numbers, letters, and sight words. (Estimated time: 10–15 minutes)
File Papers — Parents file student work Into student folders.
Make Copies — Take the "To Be Copied" folder to the copy room and run as specified. (Estimated time: 10 minutes)
Centers — Work with small groups of students during language arts or math center time.
Snack/Lunchtime Recess — We have several parents who find time to come during their child’s snack or lunchtime and help to get kids through the lunch lines, open milks, and clean up spills.
End of the Day Reading Time — Same idea as with morning time, but during the last 15 minutes of the day.
Pack and Stack Time — Parents come in and help kids get ready to go, pack backpacks, stack chairs, clean up supplies, and sharpen pencils. (Estimated time: 10 minutes)
Although times have changed and the room-moms of yesteryear are scarcer than before there are parents who still want to help. It is our job to find a way for them to make a valuable contribution to the education of their child, the classroom, and the school.