August 26, 2011,
B.S. asks from Lansing, MI on August 24, 2011
How Much Do You Help Out at School?
Earlier this month I asked a question about what the norm was for others for a school notifying them of orientation and such things at the beginning of the year. A couple answers to that question were telling me that I needed to volunteer more then maybe I could help with this issue.
I am a full time working mom whose husband works 60 hours a week. I try to do my best with helping. I do PTA meetings (even though its really a joke, because no one barely shows up and I feel like an outsider with their small clique). FYI I"m not going to be able to do PTA meetings anymore either anyway because they start at 5:30 and my husband is not home until after 6. My only option would be to hire a babysitter and I'm not going to go to all that trouble for an hour. The reason I say its pointless is because the help they need are things that are just impossible for me to help with. Examples: Help popping popcorn all day on Fridays (During school hours while I'm at work), Help with the field days - also during school hours...etc, They do put on a fundraiser that I always have my child participate in. They also put on a family picnic twice a year that I also bring a dish to pass that I participate in. They have games outside with the kids at these events and my husband will help do them.
Outside of this, I also try to at least take one day off during the school year and come into the classroom. I take off mornings or late afternoons and go on field trips too. I also supply items to the classroom whenever asked and also sometimes supply some fun things they don't ask for.
Last year my husband was a soccer coach for the K-1 team (this was before he started working 60 hours a week). I helped him with schedules and contacting parents/children about games and so on.
Is that enough? Because apparently others think I should also work in the office or take office work home so that I can get a notification by mail/email about the happenings of my daughter starting her school year. They have 2 secretaries in the office. I realize they are busy...but so am I at my job!
So my question is how much do you think someone should help at their child's school?
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So What Happened?™
Thanks for all the responses.
To answer a few questions: They did have babysitters at the PTA meetings at one time, apparently, but then found out they couldn't because it broke some kind of licensing daycare rule. Or at least I was told that by one of the parents that was super involved. But this year, the president is new and is best friends with a neighbor I know well...so I'm sure through this neighbor I will be able to still help the best I can even without going to meetings.
I'm not getting guilt at the school. Actually, I got a nice compliment from my daughter's Kindergarten teacher last year who stated I was a wonderful parent to work with. So I feel I must be doing something right?? I guess my main question was in regard to the previous question I had where I was complaining about the lack of communication about information for starting school. And the lack of response to an email I sent. Someone suggested I needed to get in the office more even after I told them I had a full time job. Apparently, they believe I'd be able to take school office work home. And maybe that is true, but I guess I feel I do enough already. Maybe not as much as others, but I feel I do a fare share.
L.C. answers from Washington DC on August 24, 2011
I am currently the band's uniform mom and band parent secretary. I've been the PTO chair, the dance chaperone, and more. I am home and work part time, but I don't spend every waking moment at school. I'm too busy for that. I do try to cover the events that happen in the middle of the day, so that working parents can stay employed.
During Elementary school, we had working parents that prepared things at night for the teachers -- that included cutting out shapes that they would use in class, cutting out things that had been laminated, stapling sets of papers together, and more - all of this was sent home with a child at the end of the day with a note when it was needed at school -- usually a week later. It worked quite well... The PTO did a math review packet during spring break one year -- the working parents stapled the packets together weeks before, the teachers distributed the packets the friday before break, the SAHMs collected the papers, and both working parents and SAMs graded the packets after break. Everyone was involved as much as they could or wanted to be.
In middle school, the parents all seem to disappear and those few SAHMs are left to do it all. I've found that asking parents to volunteer to chaperone one dance a year (there were only maybe 8 dances in the year) is often too much for the working parents. They say they can't get off of work. Well, they seem to be able to take an afternoon off to go skiing.... So why can't they take an hour or two off in the afternoon and chaperone the dance??
My husband works 60 hour weeks and commutes and hour each way... He has never missed an event. He has even left work early to chaperone a dance when we were desperate for help -- if you don't have enough chaperones, the event has to be cancelled. He did that for the kids, not for the PTO, trust me. He has never missed an opportunity to be there for the kids. Our children are in marching band. He has never missed a football game, a band camp, a competition, or a fundraising event. He pities those parents who do...
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T.S. answers from San Francisco on August 24, 2011
You are doing plenty, do not feel pressured into doing any more!
As a SAHM I have had the extra time to volunteer a lot but I have learned over the years to only sign up for the tasks I actually enjoy doing.
Helping in the classroom during centers, going on field trips, working on the school auction and yearbook? LOVE doing those.
Parents Club, room parent and classroom party committees? Oh H**L no!!!
Do as much or as little as you like. Believe me, there are plenty of parents who do nothing at all so DON'T FEEL GUILTY!
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C.J. answers from Dallas on August 24, 2011
I am right with you girl:) My son's school has moms who actually come up and eat lunch EVERY DAY with their children.
SO - I go on every field trip they need help with, I am an approved volunteer. My hubby and I join the PTO so they have my demographic support (the more parents/males, etc they get different grants or recogniton. I go to parts of my son's field day (they only have one a year) and I go to every after-hour school play/concert that he is in and I attend Parent teacher conferences.
I work and do not have time to just chill up at the school. My son is comfortable with the amount of time I am there and therefore, so am I. He did ask me one time why I never came to eat lunch with him, so I did a few days over my lunch and he ignored me, so I didn't do it again and he never asked again - LOL!
You are doing plenty and don't let anyone tell you you aren't:)
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H.F. answers from Pocatello on August 24, 2011
I have volunteered in different ways as my schedule allowed over the years, and I understand that sometimes you just aren't able to do as much as you'd like to. A few ideas: Ask the teacher if there is anything that you could take to do at home to help her such as grading papers or cutting out things for her. Ask her if there is anything that she needs donated to the classroom such as a new pencil sharpener or just some extra hand sanitizer. Just talk to the teacher once in a while and be friendly, she will appreciate it! Try to take one field trip a year with the class, you could probably arrange one day off for it, especially with plenty of advanced notice. When the school does a picnic, volunteer to come early to help set up or stay late to help clean up. For the fundraiser, if they have a silent auction or raffle, you can get donations from businesses you frequent (you are there any way!), I have had great success asking for gift cards or other donations (for school fundraisers and a community fundraising event) from local vintage clothes stores, an independent movie theater, a bakery, and even a nice theme hotel that donated a nights' stay! If you ask they are likely to say yes, especially if they know you are a regular customer of theirs. You can make an important contribution in the little time that you have, you just have to be dedicated! And you will set a wonderful example for your child! Remember, volunteers do not necessarily have the time, they have the heart!
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L.A. answers from Austin on August 24, 2011
First of all I and my husband also worked.. I owned my own business.. So I know what you are talking about.. Most of the parents worked. But I found things I COULD do at night to help the school.
When I was a PTA President there were tons of things that the working parents helped with.. The mothers, and the Fathers.
They were invaluable with the website.
The news letters.
Communications between the school and the parents.
Also there are parents that do better with a buddy. Look for someone that has a project going and offer to help them.. Example.. If they are working on tshirt sales.. they need someone who can make the "order form" . Who can have them printed and bundled for each classroom.. Who can tally the sales..
The people that helped with communications for the "classroom volunteers" was a full time working parent and she was great at sending out the reminders for the once a month update on what was needed for the classroom help. The teachers sent her requests and she sent a"group" email to all of the people that had signed up to help.. Many times it was the Special area teachers that needed volunteers - Art, PE,Music, Librarian, computer lab, Spanish teacher, Special Ed.... Since they do not have homeroom parents.
For our carnival.. we bundled tickets into $5., $10, bundles so when the kids or parents purchased tickets it was easy to hand out.. Many, stay at home parents volunteered to do this.
I volunteered to do the book orders (scholastic) for our daughters class. This was about every 4 to 6 weeks.. It was easy and 1 less thing the teacher had to do.
Maybe you could send an email to the school secretary and ask what types of things you could help with? See if the Librarian would like for you to find her some volunteers.
If you feel like the PTA is cliquish, just deal with the President. Let that person know you really want and are able to do small projects from home.
I was kind of stand offish when our daughter started at her elementary school.. The PTA looked like a clique.. but in reality these were parents that had children of all ages so some of them had been there for years.. When you have 3 or 4 children spaced out in 2 to 3 years.. You are going to be spending a very long time in different schools.. You are just naturally going to get to know other parents and a lot of the teachers.. And they are going to call on you for help..
I was called upon by a mom that noticed I had volunteered to help the teacher, so she asked me to help with a PTA project. Once I was involved with that, they called on me for other things. It just bloomed from there.. I tried to change the perceptions of our PTA from being "exclusive to being inclusive".. We learned who can be counted on and we learned who is a flake and cannot follow through or would forget. .. Just like at work.. except you cannot fire volunteers. hee, hee
Do not be discouraged if there is nothing right now or if they cannot think of something right now.. It is not a snub, they just are getting the year started. Send a note or email to the Principal, the School Secretary, The classroom teacher and the PTA President.
Your children are going to be excited that you are helping their school!
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A.L. answers from Charleston on August 24, 2011
I think you're doing plenty. There are many overzealous PTA moms out there who don't work and think EVERYONE should be volunteering every second of their free time to the school. (I'm a SAHM and on the PTO board and this attitude drives me nuts.) Sorry, but I like to do stuff that doesn't revolve around school/PTA, and I don't want to live at the school everyday. If they choose to do that, that's their business. Stay out of mine!
Don't let anyone bully you or make you feel guilty. If there is something extra you could do occasionally like take your child's class to lunch once a month to relieve the teacher - that's always a nice treat. Other than that - you're doing what you can handle and it sounds generous to me!
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K.H. answers from Minneapolis on August 24, 2011
Don't feel pressured. Or feel pressured, but you have every right to decline...everything, technically. You're already busy. It's your time...only you can give it away.
I turned down being the room social parent (meaning organizing social events outside of school) b/c 1) I was it last year and did nothing 2) I volunteer teach and decided I liked that better 3) wasn't motivated to do MORE stuff with the school. Enough already! Go with what you like to do, since you're more likely to actually do the work.
At my boys' school, it's private but families are asked to provide a certain number of volunteer hours. Right now, since I'm a SAHM I do more, knowing that I might have to pull back in the future. No worries, I know I'm covering for other folks, in a way!
PS My folks just celebrated 45 years and in my toast I noted how they prioritized family time over everthing else (except reasonable work). Both worked full time and got very good at declining extraneous pressures. While they didn't have a huge social life, we have a great family life and that's what I remember. I remember my parents visiting my classes, but b/c it was rare and special. I remember them coming to games, etc. I don't remember them stuffing envelopes or answering the phone in the office or attending meetings (I viewed that as them being taken away). If you volunteer, I'd as much WITH your kids as possible. JMHO :-)
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D.S. answers from Saginaw on August 25, 2011
I am on the PTO board at our school and we are so happy to have parents volunteer in any way they can, but also understand they have job, families, other obligations, etc. Our PTO does free babysitting and uses high school students that need volunteer hours....maybe something you could suggest to your school's PTO. Are there other volunteer activities you could help with like counting Box Tops at home in your own time if your school collects them, calling or e-mailing volunteers to coordinate those that can do activities at the school during the week....again, just finding things that you can do at home in your own time without taking time off from your job. Ask the PTO if they have any things they could use help with, maybe they would have a few ideas.
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