My First Year as a School Volunteer: Lessons from the Front Lines


About a year ago I wrote this post about how to make the most out of your school volunteer efforts. D2 wasn't enrolled in pre-school yet, so at the time I hadn't yet dipped my toe into the volunteer waters. My biggest concern was how I would balance my already full plate with the obligatory service that all schools seem to expect these days.

One of the first things I read on the contract to enroll D2 in Montessori's toddler program was that every family was required to contribute 20 volunteer hours or $200 per school year.  I told Dr. D. about the Faustian bargain agreement

Well, of course we are just going to pay the $200 bucks, right?  Dr. D. thinks this is a non-issue.

We don't have time to volunteer, he argues. Let's pay the money and be done with it.


I shudder. What will the other parents think of us? What will D2's teachers think? I'm positive we'll be the only parents who choose to write a check.


I envision teachers clucking their tongues and classmates' mothers giving me looks of disapproval. That's D2's mother. How sad she can't peel herself away from her job to volunteer a few measly hours a year.


No way was I going down like that.

I resolve to be the Best School Volunteer. Ever.

In hindsight, I should have set my sights a little lower.


And therein lies lesson one:  If you are a busy parent with limited time, it's easy to be overly ambitious and take on more than you can handle because you want to impress teachers and other parents.  But you do yourself no favors by stressing out over what should be a enjoyable activity.


Make it easy on yourself by starting small. Most schools are happy to have any level of quality parental involvement because they are focused on parent engagement.  

I learned a number of other important lessons along the way this year.

Only volunteer to do stuff you actually want to do.
I know this one is rather obvious. At the beginning of the year parents were given a volunteer sign up sheet with two pages of activities to choose from. I checked  the class laundry box (easy) and gardening (WTH was I thinking?). I do not garden at my own home. I am not sure why I thought I would garden at my son's school. Needless to say, when the email notices came around reminding parents about the gardening "opportunities" I always found a way to be busy.

Besides, I really don't like dirt that much.


I also don't do crafts or crafty stuff but that's another post.


Read the rest of this post after the jump:

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