I do not like having parent volunteers.

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by DrivingPigeon, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I seem to have this problem every year. I thought it would go away moving from kindergarten to second grade. But it hasn't.

    We had Open House last night. I had about 4 moms who were very kind, very welcoming (I'm at a new school), and very willing to volunteer and help with anything that I may need help with.

    My problem is that I do not know how to use parent volunteers. Last year I did not use parent volunteers at all, and it was fantastic. I want to get parents involved, BUT I only want to use volunteers if it will make my life easier. I do not want to spend time organizing things or training volunteers when I could just spend the time doing the task myself.

    Here are my problems with the things that "typical" parent volunteers do:
    -They cannot make photo-copies. We are allowed only 5 copies per day. Everything else is sent to the district print center.
    -Our laminating is very limited, so I laminate very little.
    -I do not do very many art projects, so I do not need help with organizing those materials.
    -My bulletin boards contain anchor charts, so I do not need anyone to change them for me.
    -I am an organization freak, so I never have piles or things that need to be sorted or filed. I take care of things/put them away right when they come to me, so my work very rarely stacks up.
    -I do not feel comfortable having parents work with students. I worry about the confidentiality, and I do not want students missing out on what we are doing in the classroom. Plus, I am the professional. I went to school to learn how to teach children and I feel like parents with even the best intentions may not know what they are doing (even with my guidance).

    PHEW! :dizzy:

    So, how can I use parent volunteers?
     
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  3. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Do you do centers? You say you're not comfortable having them work with students, but they can be helpful with centers that don't need your specific guidance. Parents can be good with just explaining worksheets or doing things like helping with manipulatives. That type of thing won't get them too deeply involved to the point where they gossip about student abilities or problems.

    Or...you can politely thank them and reserve the right to call on them if you need them. That will acknowledge the fact htat they offered to help and get you off the hook until something comes up where you might need assistance.
     
  4. janlee

    janlee Devotee

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    I don't use parent volunteers except for holiday celebrations. My second graders plan their own celebrations...food, drinks, games. I then send home a letter asking for the items to be sent in. I also tell the parents that they are welcome to attend that particular celebration. I've never had any problems with this system.
     
  5. dcnuck

    dcnuck Companion

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    How about having them listen to your struggling readers read out loud and help students with reading?
     
  6. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Fieldtrips, class parties or other events
     
  7. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    I don't get a lot of parent volunteers thankfully, more like random parents come in to observe. I normally put them to work because it's useful to me and it makes them think twice about "popping in" for an hour or two getting on my nerves and in my way.

    1) Can the parent volunteers grade papers? Even though I teach first grade, we are required to give two grades a week in two areas. So I give my parent volunteers an answer key and this sliding score scale I got from the teacher store (you can make them online for free. it's like you google grading generator and put how many questions on the test and it'll make a rubric of points for how many wrong).

    2) Work with struggling kids in small group?

    3) Read whatever story you have for the class that day?

    4) Supervise centers?

    5) Be a bathroom/water monitor? (at our school kids are allowed to walk by themselves to the bathroom. a parent in the hallway would be a Godsend to corral the kids to go potty and get their bottoms back in class instead of messing around in the hall)
     
  8. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    I don't like having them either - sometimes it's more work to think of things to do, to prepare the materials and then type out explanations than it is just to do the things myself.

    However, I use them anyway, as I'm sure you will, too, because I think it's important to build that parent/school relationship and I think it's really important for the kids to see their parents contributing to their classroom.

    I teach preschool, so my needs for parents are going to be a lot different than yours. I usually have them do a seasonal type of project with the kids (usually arts and crafts, but again, I'm preschool). What about computer lab time? I find another adult is invaluable then. Or writing? Train them to do mini-conferences with the kids and have them come in during writers workshop once a week. Again, remember I'm PreK, but I find that parents like to teach kids basic games (candy land, go fish, etc). Many of those games do have some skill base, and you can have parents pull kids who are finished work, or who don't need a certain skill, etc., etc, to play a game as a reward.....Honestly, I'm just grasping at straws here.
     
  9. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    At open house or the first few days of school I send home a student info sheet for parents to let me know about their child. I also include a space for them to check off certain items they'd be willing to assist with. Two years ago, I had a parent check off everything and then ask why she wasn't asked to come in for anything. I try to explain that I'm often unsure at the beginning of the year what I may need additional help with so I try to list a variety of skills and pull from this database when/if the need ever arises.

    I've had parents come in for parties (usually organized by a room mom established through the PTO), to read with students (I have them read with a good mix of high, mid, and low students) or help with a large project (like paper mache globes).

    I try to keep a few things in mind.

    * I try not to ask parents to come in prior to October. This lets the students and I get our routines and procedures down before having guests come in.
    * I consider my past interactions with parents. If I need the parent to work with other students, I try to make sure that it's someone who seems friendly with kids, not the mom who talked to me for an hour after school about how terrible her child's friends were.
    * I never have parents grade papers for me. This is a confidentiality issue for me.

    In the past I've also asked parents if they'd be willing to help improve our classroom/school. Cleanliness is an issue at my current school so having a parent come in to clean off desks once a week would be fantastic. What parent doesn't want to help clean up the place where their child spends so much time?
     
  10. AZMrs.S

    AZMrs.S Cohort

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    I am not sure how to handle parent volunteers either as I am a first year teacher. I sent home a generic volunteer sheet and had an overwhelming response... I am not sure how to organize the ones that do want to come in and help.. This has been helpful though. I will definitely be utilizing them during center time!
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    We don't get many volunteers, but one of my co-workers had a parent that wanted to come in practically every day. She pretty much just had kids read to her, and told her to "just listen" and that it was good for the kids to just practice reading aloud to someone. That way the volunteer felt useful, but the teacher wasn't having her responsible for providing any instruction or intervention, so she didn't have to worry about the parent being untrained/inexperienced.
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Mystery reader

    Organizing and submitting your Scholastic book orders

    Helping with class celebrations

    Special projects (planting, crafts, painting)

    At home materials preparation ( cutting out game pieces, organizing files...)
     
  13. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    I've been teaching for 25 years and I still hate having parent volunteers in the classroom. Fortunately our school has lots of opportunities for parents to get involved, so they feel connected that way.


    I've always felt that parents working with the struggling children is probably not the best thing, so I'm glad I'm not alone.
     
  14. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Our school often places volunteers in other classrooms. Are there younger classes that may need a few extra hands? Or maybe another teacher has things they could take home and cut out for them.

    I agree too with working with a group that struggling or maybe one that's really advanced. If you wanted to give them a project that involved research or something maybe the parent could work with them in the computer lab or something-supervising that small group.

    I don't like volunteers either. I appreciate their offer and their support but find it usually causes more drama. A lot of our parents know each other or are related so they'll "report" back to other parents-your child wouldn't play with my child, etc. I also find it to be a serious distraction to the other kids. With little ones, any adult in the room is an opportunity for attention. We had a speech therapist working with a kid yesterday and it was just too fascinating-I had to keep trying to re-direct them to me.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I would think that would be a huge confidentiality issue.

    I do have a question, since this is totally out of the realm of my experience. Do the parents have to have any sort of a security check?

    I teach religion in my local parish. In order to be a volunteer of ANY sort in our parish, we need to have VIRTUS training (on spotting child abuse) and submit to a background check. So to work the ticket booth in our local parish fair last month, all that had to be in place.

    But can anyone who has a child volunteer to help in his or her classroom?

    Perhaps I'm overly cautious-- a former good friend is now on the Sexual Offenders list in the midwest. But he's a parent. So he might very well be one of the volunteers who has signed up in one of your classrooms. And while I'm OK with him reading the kids a story under your eye, I do NOT want him taking any child to a bathroom alone.
     
  16. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Background check or not, ours couldn't take our students to the bathroom alone anyways. Not even the interns can do that. A staff person has to be with the volunteer at all times. No parents cannot grade papers.
     
  17. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Does your school participate in box top awards? My son's teacher last year used parents to work with that. We also recycle our positive reinforcement bucks school wide. A parent could do that and sort the kids by names for your file or whatever system you use.

    Do you have any file folder games (yes, even in 2nd) that you want made? Any materials? What about flashcards you want made?
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Also, if you're going to have parents help, I think it's important to include ways that working parents can help-- some of those at home projects czacza mentioned.

    Working parents want to be part of their kids' education, but frequently are not available during school hours.

    I was thrilled this summer with a request to help find items for the upcoming Penny Auction at Kira's school. I put in some serious time over the summer, and have already gotten some results. Many of the other things they run occur when I'm at school, and I simply cannot be there to help.
     
  19. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Also if you need toilet paper tubes or magazines for an upcoming project, sending this notice out for donations is another way to give parents who work a chance to participate.
     
  20. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    If it hasn't already been suggested... Once a month guest read aloud would be an easy way to have them participate without having them involved directly in the classroom activities.
     
  21. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    At my school all parents need a background check before volunteering, except for classroom celebrations. We have 3 celebrations each year, and anyone can attend.

    Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I use Daily 5 in my classroom, which fosters literacy independence, so I do not use centers and I want the children to be independent. I don't want them to rely on adults. This worked well in my kindergarten classroom, so I know the kids will be even more independent in 2nd grade (hopefully!). I see such gains when they work independently and cooperatively to apply strategies. It would be more work to have a volunteer in the classroom.

    I have thought about the mystery reader thing before, so maybe I will try that. The problem is, I don't know when I would fit it into my schedule! Again, more work for me.
     
  22. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    We do have the box tops, milk caps, etc., but our PSA has a group of parents that sorts everything.

    I do have some file folder games sitting around that they could put together at home. Thanks!
     
  23. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I love the idea of asking parent volunteers to listen to kids read. They don't need any special training for that--they just need to be a set of ears for the kid.

    Maybe you could also ask parents to organize special activities or events, something like a culture fair or art expo. They could be responsible for organizing the physical layout, contacting local businesses and asking for donations, helping make decorations or costumes, stuff like that. It could potentially be a very large project for parents and could keep them busy for weeks or months and out of your hair. Parents feel like they are contributing, you don't feel like you have to micro-manage them, and the kids will get something out of it. It's a win-win-win.
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    This is sobering. Perhaps I should rethink the six years I put in as a classroom volunteer, and go apologize.
     
  25. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Are you serious?

    I'm just saying that I want to use volunteers in the best way possibly, but not in a way that is more work for myself.

    Wow.
     
  26. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Yes, I'm serious. Many posts in this thread agree in characterizing parent volunteers as something between an inconvenience and an impediment. I have always hated being an inconvenience.

    Most of the teachers involved have long since retired, so I can't very well apologize to them. That being the case, so I'll apologize to you all here and leave it at that.
     
  27. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    I'm kind of surprised that it's seen as a problem, but I do think that it's entirely relative to the situation and people involved. When I ST'd there were two parent volunteers who were friends and insisted on being there at the same time. They basically sat in the back of the room and chatted with each other until my MT decided to use them to do centers and work with the students instead of having them do prep work.

    Parent volunteers seem to work best when they come in for center work. I've seen that in a lot of kinder - 2nd grade classes. There is adult supervision and the teacher doesn't have to give the students too much freedom or be too harried trying to monitor 4 or 5 different groups at a time.

    What I have found is that in the schools that are most in need of parent help, it isn't there. I've worked in very low SES areas where the majority of children are EL. There is no budget for aides, the classes are large and the students really are in need of some help with reading. Unfortunately, most parents are either unsure of their own English ability or have to work or take care of younger siblings and can't come in. The schools where I work that are in much higher income areas with stay-at-home moms who have time to volunteer tend to have the moms just cut paper because the students can already read.

    Although I know the real interest is in being in one's own child's room, I often think that in urban and suburban areas where the districts have a large variety of different needs, it would be nice to have someone cross-match the available parents to the schools in need. It might not be your own child's room or even the school in your neighborhood, but if you really want to volunteer to help a child, there is always a teacher with a student who could use help somewhere out there.
     
  28. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Why don't you ask them what special thing they can bring to your class? Maybe they can talk about a vacation they took, or a cool job they have. Or maybe one is an artist and can do a quick Friday afternoon project. How about a musician? Or a pilot? A cook at a restaurant? Maybe they have a special talent, like juggling, or storytelling, or needlepoint.

    I totally agree with you, I don't like random people waiting for me to tell them what to do. I would schedule them for something very specific to do.
     
  29. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Even within the Daily 5, could you train the volunteers in some way to listen to kids read or do some sort of book talk with them? That way, there would be more opportunities for the kids to share their thinking/get feedback, but it wouldn't necessarily interfere with their independence (the same as you doing conferences or working with a group).
     
  30. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    It is not in our school culture to let parents volunteer in the classroom due to the nature of confidentiality and our small community. We do use them for events and fieldtrips. There have been times I naively thought it wouldn't make a big difference to have parent volunteers but then not only bit my tongue but was profusely grateful because having them meant a safe and successful fieldtrip. Despite not having them there on a weekly basis, I did invite them on the first day, they could observe any time they wanted, I asked for donations when I needed them, thanked them for stopping by even if it was inconvenient and without notice, encouraged other family members to participate, sent frequent communication and it was obvious I enjoyed the parents as a whole. I actually had one parent come up to me and said her and her husband both decided that out of her five children's teachers I made them feel the most connected to the classroom. High praise considering I didn't have them directly in the classroom much. (Disclaimer: I don't have nearly as many parents as you guys do to satisfy). I guess my point is this...

    It is a good idea to think it through and make a list of ways you can use volunteers of all kinds (we did have a lot of practicum students) ahead of time but unless it is highly part of your school culture, don't over sweat it. Think of things that will benefit your class. There are other ways to make parents feel connected and useful.
     
  31. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I don't enjoy having parent volunteers in my room. This year I am making myself have volunteers on a somewhat regular basis. It's on my to do list.
     
  32. Joy

    Joy Cohort

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    I think that it totally depends on the volunteer and that is why some teachers that have posted are talking about some negatives. There are also lots of positives to parent volunteers. I think it just depends on them.

    I subbed in a kindergarten class one day and they were absolutely crazy! The teacher left in her note that her class just had four different subs for the past four days. They never stopped talking or moving. On top of that the plans left by the teacher said that I was supposed to be running four reading centers at the same time and the associate who was supposed to be helping was sick! I was starting to feel very overwhelmed when in walked a parent volunteer. She said that she wasn't sure if the teacher had left any notes about her coming and wanted to know if there was anything she could help with. She completely saved me that day and I sure let her know it!!! She was very professional and kept the kids at her centers right on task.

    I have also subbed in other classes where it didn't work quite that well. I have a volunteer dad once and all he wanted to do was chat very loudly with the kids. He just didn't get that we needed to get work done but at least he was trying to be involved.

    Parent volunteers can be a huge resource! I have seen teachers send things home with students to have mothers cut out (If you do Words Their Way that would be a huge help). If you need to do portfolios for the kids they can help with compiling them in the books. You could use them if you need pages torn out of books or scholastic catalogs divided up. They are usually very humble and would do anything to help out.
     
  33. NYteacherNmom

    NYteacherNmom Rookie

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    I have a good suggestion (or at least I think its a good idea :)

    Have a mystery reader once a week. Have the 15 minutes set aside, and all you need to tell the volunteer is the time to come in and that they need to bring in a book to read that is "special" to their child. No planning or directing anything for you, and the only prep work is shooting them a generic email reminder the week before to confirm.
     
  34. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I've never worked or even observed in a school where parents come in to just volunteer and do stuff for the teachers. Where I went to school parents helped out at assemblies, special events, holiday parties and field trips. The PTA was very active and appreciative of the teachers but parents didn't come in just to help grade papers or stuff like that. Where I am now we're lucky if we can get enough volunteers to go on a field trip- and I personally like it that way. Like you said, you're the professional you went to school to do this job, not them.

    I like to involve parents by sending home a newsletter with pictures of fun activities, this year I'm even thinking of creating a blog or website to get parents even more involved. Only problem is a lot of the parents only speak Spanish.
     
  35. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Wow, I love my parent volunteers.....we are younger age groups so I can use them in ways that aren't available at the older levels. As a parent volunteer myself I have helped at the parties of course, but then as the teachers found out that I could support myself in a class, I became more important. For scheduled absences, I would sometimes be asked in to help with "reading for struggling students" or man that craft/art project that was needed for a holiday. I just made sure not to work with my child (who was already a past member of my own room....working on holiday projects with my kids wasn't a problem for them). I have also run "organized" game choices on recess. Setting up parachute time as a choice or having toss across going on the playground...these were great fun for the children and didn't really let me know too much more about their progress in class.

    I am pained to see such a lack of parent contact in older classrooms.
     
  36. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    I teach parent participation preschool so I LOVE parents. They do EVERYTHING - I mean it! They facilitate the crafts, play games, supervise journals, do science activities, cooking projects, read with them, prepare crafts, clean the room, make games and activities, supervise "dangerous" activities - nailing, glue guns, etc. I couldn't do half the stuff I do without them. Most are hard-working, nurturing, creative, helpful, etc. etc. etc.
     
  37. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    I agree scmom both as the teacher and the parent. I really love when the teacher my child has been placed with has a plan for parents beyond the class party. I often request those teachers. I feel a bit like teacher groupie now.
     
  38. bridgetbordeaux

    bridgetbordeaux Companion

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    Part of the reason I went back to school to become a teacher was my interaction with my child's teachers. I helped with reading groups, art projects, field trips, class parties, and anything else she needed. I explained to my child that I was there to help the teacher,not to play with her. My child was never a problem when I was in the room. And if her classroom teacher didn't need me one year, I would go volunteer with a teacher who liked parental help. I was told by many teachers that I was good with kids, and that I would be great as a teacher. So....I think it just depends on the teacher, and also on whether a parent volunteer is a help to the teacher or a hindrance.
     
  39. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Well, I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I said in my OP that I really appreciate parent volunteers. I guess I don't hate having them-I hate figuring out how to best utilize them. Like I said numerous times, I want to use them in a way that makes my life easier. I am a very busy person, and in the past I have found myself spending extra time organizing things for volunteers to do when I could have just done it myself.
     
  40. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    No offense taken. Everyone is different, but I encourage you to explore ways you can get them to help - both for the help but, even more importantly, to make parents feel part of your classroom and the school learning community. I think it is important for the future of children and education that families and schools form partnerships together. It can be a powerful combination.
     
  41. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    I have found that as I have gotten more and more used to volunteers I have become more comfortable with them. I love having moms and dads at writing time they can help by ambling around and helping any child who feels the have a short question or are stuck on the idea. This enables me to sit and go through the writing with each child who is ready for an actual conference about their writing. I like having them in for workshop because I can hand them whatever I do not want to deal with and set them to work doing it. If I do not have something for them to do I have had parents who then find pencils to sharpen books to tidy. This year I am going to be using them for reading groups either doing the reading or observing the ones who are doing other things, word building, turning on and off the listening center... I also plan on having them in for math and the math workshop time.
     

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  1. TeacherNY,
  2. miss-m
Total: 312 (members: 2, guests: 281, robots: 29)
test