Volunteering at My Kid's School Is Nothing Like I Expected

school volunteer

The first day I was scheduled to volunteer in my third-grader’s classroom, I was ridiculously nervous beforehand. I say ridiculously because in retrospect, what did I really have to be fearful about? I guess I just wasn’t sure what to expect, and I didn’t know if the kids would hate me or if whatever subject I’d be asked to help teach would be super challenging or if someone would suddenly barf a geyser of half-digested corn flakes or WHAT.

As it turned out, everything was fine. It was more than fine, in fact, and in the weeks since, I’ve been enjoying my volunteer duties (which have expanded to my first-grader’s classroom as well) more and more.

Gotta say, I SO did not see that coming.

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I didn’t sign up as a volunteer because I was dying to do it, to be honest. I signed up because with both kids in school full time and a flexible work-from-home schedule, this is the first year I have the availability to help in the classroom. I know teachers rely on volunteers, at least at our school, and I wanted to help.

But I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the time commitment, or even the experience of being around a bunch of kids each week. I’ve never thought of myself as being a natural around children aside from my own (and let’s be real, most of my parenting skills didn’t come naturally either, it’s been much more of a trial-and-error process).

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Fifteen minutes into the first reading group I was assigned in my 9-year-old’s class, however, I realized I was having fun. An hour after that, I realized that was I was doing was challenging and required my full participation in a way that felt rewarding and good. When I was done, I realized I hadn’t just muddled my way through, I’d kind of ... rocked it?

I had rocked it. And I keep rocking it each week, every Friday when I take small groups of kids to the library and help them read short books out loud and quiz them on their comprehension. I just started doing reading groups in my first-grader's class too, and even though that’s a whole different ballgame — younger, more distracted kids; multiple book-related activities to get through in a short period of time — I think I’m pretty good with them too.

The kids are awesome to be around (jeez, why was I scared of them?), and I enjoy working to connect with each unique personality and adjust my one-on-one approach based on their learning level. I enjoy having the chance to observe my kids in their class and see firsthand how they’re doing with their work and whether or not they’re getting along well with other kids.

Maybe most importantly, I really enjoy getting to know my kids’ teachers. This is the first year I feel like I’ve been able to interact with them outside of a parent-teacher conference or over email, and I have a much deeper insight into their teaching methods and a feel for how they run their classrooms.

For the first time, I get just how hard their jobs are and how hard they work. I see that they’re running school-related errands in the evenings and coming in on weekends. I see how incredibly organized they are and how they're able to masterfully juggle large classes of kids with varying abilities and behavior challenges. I’m blown away by their capabilities and I’m grateful beyond all measure that they do what they do.

All in all, volunteering hasn’t really been anything like I thought it’d be. It’s been so, so, SO much better — and I feel enormously lucky that I’m able to do it. If I were to give one piece of advice to a parent who’s on the fence about helping out in class (I completely recognize not everyone is able to do so), it’d be this: give it a try, it just might be one of the most positive experiences of your life.

Do you volunteer in your kids’ classes?

 

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