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Ten easy ways to help your child's school

Volunteering your time or donating equipment can make a big difference at your school. Find out what you can offer.

By GreatSchools Staff

Have you ever thought about all the people and processes that work together to make a school a healthy, stable environment for learning? Teachers and administrators work tirelessly to provide students with a strong education, sense of discipline, and respect for knowledge. But schools function best when they belong to communities of interested, involved individuals and families.

You can bring a lot to a school in the form of your energy, time, ideas, or donations. Here are some ways to get started using your skills and resources to help your local school.

  1. Join the club. The PTA, home and school club, or school site council are key organizations. Being a part of any of these groups will also help to connect you with other parents and community members. Call the school secretary for contact information.
  2. Attend school board meetings. You will have the opportunity to provide your input as well as get an inside view on how the school board makes decisions that affect your community's schools.
  3. Give a boost to a school club. In the era of "no extras" in education, your school's enrichment programs can probably use a little help. If your child is involved with any clubs or activities at school, call the person in charge of the group and see if you can help with transportation, supplies, or planning.
  4. Get technical. If you have strong computer skills, such as Web site creation or network administration, see if your school needs help setting up a computer system or maintaining or upgrading the equipment they already have.
  5. Share your time and talents. Teachers often need parent volunteers to help with small-group activities, reading to children, or correcting papers. Are you a fabulous chef or a craft whiz? Volunteer to give students a classroom demonstration of how to make an exotic dish or a creative holiday gift.
  6. Organize a workplace tour. Do you work for a company that would be an interesting place for a field trip? Suggest a class visit to your office.
  7. Start a cleanup crew. Are crushed soda cans and scrap paper the primary decor on campus? Why not designate one Saturday in the spring "School Cleanup Day"? Include parents, students, teachers, and any community members who want to help. Participants will feel a sense of ownership and will be less likely to ignore litter in the future.
  8. Nurture your green thumb. Have you noticed that the school grounds could use some work? Talk to the principal or PTA about gathering a group of parents to plant trees or flowers in a few spots around the school.
  9. Be in the driver's seat. Teachers often need parents to drive or chaperone on school field trips.
  10. Volunteer at the school library. Most schools, short on funds to hire librarians, rely on parent help to keep the library open for students. Offer to check out or shelve books, assist students, or donate money to buy books for the library.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/25/2012:
"Help the kids when they have a though question. Be a good helper. The teacher need your help so get out there and start volunteering. "
04/25/2012:
"Get out there and volunteer the teachers need your help. "
04/25/2012:
"Help the students on papers if they don't know the answer. Help them recycle. Do good things for the schools. "
03/6/2012:
"Cool article it is very useful "
03/5/2012:
"Cool article it is very useful "
03/14/2011:
"The information here is critical to a parent such as myself who is going to have a kindergardener this year!!! Thanks and together we can have much better school experiences for our children than we had ourselves back in the day. As long as we get involved, participate dont just talk about it DO IT!!! OUR KIDS NEED US FOR A BETTER TOMORROW!!!"
11/2/2009:
"My husband & I are pretty much the only volunteers at my son's school. I am pleased to find articles on how to get other parents involved. Our school is largely Latino & I would love to find ways to get these parents involved!"
09/1/2009:
"This is a wonderful addition to this site. I am glad to see it offering well-rounded suggestions rather than just 'consumer-based' information for parents who need to be involved in their childrens' educational experiences! - A parent "
08/26/2009:
"I would like to remain ananymous but at the school where I am a parent volunteer has been very disappointing. I have been pushing for a PTA/PTO but the school administration is not willing to accamodate one due to the fact that then they would have to answere as to where the funds attainded from school sales and functions are going. I have tried to speak to the principal but it has been no use. I have always thought that being a volunteer would allow parents to help with the students and help where it is really needed but at this school they want us to run office errands for the secetary, go make lunch runs, makes copies and laminate papers while the para-profesionals just stand around and joke and laugh with each other about the club they were at last night or which teacher they spent the night with. I read that in our school district is over staffed and it shows becuase these people just got a $1,760 raise but the school is barely above average as per the state of Texas! and we the parents are doing all the administrative work and errands while the student grades are not showing an improvement. I want to thank you for this article because now I have something in writing which have already been proven to be a positive and not get shot down with a 'well it has always been done this way'. "
07/27/2009:
"I volunteered daily for my son's 4th grade year and it was so rewarding. I'm a memeber of the club. I attended school board meetings and gave technically too. I did share my time and talents. I was a chaperone at every outing for the entire year. I love my son with all my heart and would do anything to assist him and the school. I look forward to attending the 5th grade this year. "
04/9/2009:
"What I found is that my 17 year old son and my 16 year old daughter are learning, their passing. My son reads at approx. the 4th grade level. I have worked with and requested help but it was just recentley that I took action and researched the schools. What I found was a pattern of studends being advanced. Students having their grades manipulated over night. I found that 'discussing such is taboo'. I sit at my desk everynight finding more and more programs, services, to help but not once was i given any. Don't tell me a parent can make a difference, I'll introduce you to teachers, students and review the public documents available. I have had door after door shut 'she's talking about the educational system.' My offer was to develop a service to provide a means to receive the needed information, the means to know what exist. This I send to you with this, my boy is Newt and my girl is Lilly and they are not a number, they are not another dime in the coffer, they are little! people with dreams that each day die.........."
03/23/2009:
"i love it but if it had more interesting ideas i would keep reading but since you dont whatever you need more amazing enviroment ideas"
10/28/2008:
"Most of these recommendations assume that parents or guardians have discretionary time on their hands. The parents who are most likely to have discretionary time (and income), as well as things like technical skills to lend to the school, are more likely to have their children enrolled in higher- socioeconomic status, higher- performing schools. Please offer recommendations for lower-income parents who are working multiple jobs (and multiple shifts) who may not have time to join the PTA or work at the school's library, but who also want to help out at their child's school. "
06/2/2008:
"what can a kid do for their school though?"
01/3/2008:
"I can't thank you enough for all your very useful articles. It gives me a lot of information i didn't know before. I am so happy to know you and please keep us updated all the time. Thank you."
12/13/2007:
"'This article is very useful for us parents.'"
11/30/2007:
"this article was very useful"
11/12/2007:
"As the mom of a kindergartener, I found myself more than willing to volunteer at the school with anything that needed to be done. My daughter started late this school year and it is a small rural school district, but I was certain that there was something needing to be done. I even volunteered to clean the cafeteria/bathrooms! But thus far, noone has accepted my offers to help. My dilemna is: how can a parent become more involved, when the homeroom teacher seems less-than warm to the idea?"
08/10/2007:
"I am a kindergarten teacher. What I find with volunteers is enthusiasm to assist at the beginning of the year and lose of interest as the year continues and much less reliable. I find retired volunteers to be very reliable. Some parents can be disruptive in the classroom-not following class practices. I always invite parents to volunteer so that they do feel accepted by our school since this is their first experience at the school."
07/27/2007:
"Moms, it is VERY important to be involved in your child's education. Your child will know you care, and, that you are very likely to find out about any misconduct if you are a regular prescence at the school. Also, stay in touch with the teacher/s between report cards, if your child is slacking off or needs tutoring, there will be time for improvement before the final grade."
06/27/2007:
"Have found public schools welcome parent volunteers (they tend to be more democratic anyway) but private schools prefer parents don't see what is (and what is not) going on! It's the only way to perpetuate the myth of private school superiority."
04/25/2007:
"I'm glad I read this article; starting next year I'm going to be a part of PTA and for the rest of the school year I'm going to ask weekly if my son's teacher needs help with anything like coming to read or grading papers, etc.. Thanks, this was helpful!"
12/12/2006:
"This article was very helpful to me. My son is in 6th grade now and we have had a hard time fitting in in the past. I am a young parent, and I sometimes feel intimidated by the faculty and even the other parents. I feel that I am looked down upon because of my age. I would like to know the parents of my child's classmates, just as any other parent would, but that is hard to do when they feel that there is no connection because there is a 10 year gap in age. I intend to get more involved in my child's school. I know that it would maj=ke him feel better about being there, and I hope this will also help me to bond with the other parents."
11/29/2006:
"This is the article that I've been hoping for. The one that would steer me into the right direction I need to head out on. I've been back and forth with my thoughts concerning my Freshman Daughter. At her last school every class had a text book for each desk. The school also issued every student a set of textbooks which they kept at home and at the end of the year they were returned to the school. This year at her present school, lockers are issued and so are the textbooks but the classrooms don't come furnished with the textbooks. Because of certain factors regarding my daughter, she chooses to not use her issued locker. This results in a 50+ lb. backpack being carried around campus on her back! After I read this article I'm confident with my plan to have each classroom furnish a textbook that is to be kept in the classroom, and now I know where to start and who to call to get this plan into action. Thankyou! "
11/29/2006:
"Great advice! Now that my oldest is in middle school, I feel like I have dropped off the planet. I attended orientation, of course- and met the teachers, but other than that there has been NO contact, no parent letters except 1 permission slip for a field trip, and no open house. My daughter insists that she doesn't get any papers or information to bring to me. I volunteer for scouts, church, and was pretty active in elementary school. This article has helped me realize that I am sure there are things I can do, and will send notes to teachers tomorrow!"
11/15/2006:
"Ummmmmmmmmm Mr. California 10/10/06 your comments are outrageous and do you even have kids? Based on your comments, it seems as though you do not. I'm probably only voicing what others are thinking but you are way off base and if you were the one commenting that Private schools are no better than Public and that Christian School is only Private School with a little God thrown in it, you are way off base. You need to do a little research before making those types of comments so that you may sound educated and not like a complete idot. "
11/13/2006:
"Do not allow your school to use volunteers to run the library/media center! School Library Media Specialists are information professionals who play a critical role, teaching students how to select, use and understand information in all formats. National guidelines recommend that every school building have at least one full-time certified library media professional with appropriate support staff. However, almost one-quarter of public schools and four-fifths of private schools lack a paid school library media specialist. See http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslproftools/toolkits/schoollibrary.htm for statistics and more information"
11/9/2006:
"I thought you had great ideas. Here are a few more. Offer to help with filing in the office. Contact the school to find out if they parent volunteers for school wide programs like vision screening or picture day. This one day committment is a great way to get to know the office staff that serve your child."
10/19/2006:
"This is great! The more adults interested in the children in the community, the healthier the community. My grandchildren are out of the school system but I still volunteer ...it's amazing how fulfilling at day at school can be."
10/13/2006:
"My son is in 3rd grade this year, and I have volunteered at his school ever since he was in kindergarten. In fact, there have been days that he was home sick, & I was still at the school. I have gotten Volunteer of the Month 3 or 4 times. I was also made a PTA Life Member. I love volunteer at the school. Last year I was doing stuff for 2 kindergarten teachers, 2 1st grade teachers, 4 2nd grade teachers, 2 third grade teachers, I went on the 5th grade field trip just because they needed another adult to go. I am at a brand new school this year, but I still go to my son's old school almost everyday to see if any of 'my' teachers need anything done. The teachers just don't have time to make copies, and laminate stuff. And the teachers I help really, really appreciate having the help. The teachers have started arguing about who will get my son the next year!!! Anyway, if you have the time, volunteer!!! Teachers need all the help they can get!!"
10/10/2006:
"Another way to assist your child's school is to volunteer during recess & lunch, or before and after school."
10/10/2006:
"The absolute best thing parents can do for the public school system is to remove their children from it and homeschool them. Public schools are a disgrace to true education. Private school is not any better. It's only more expensive. Christian school is only private school with a little bit of God added in. True education starts in the home. 50 years ago the dumbest public school graduate was smarter than the best college graduate today. You should request a refund of all the taxes you have paid for public education. Have a nice day."
10/10/2006:
"I've been a teacher for three years, and these are GREAT ways for parents to get involved. No matter what they say, kids LOVE when their parents are involved; it's a little way you can show them you care. And the teachers love it as well! Even a couple of hours a month make a difference."
10/10/2006:
"Unfortunately the U.S. educational system has become a second class profession depending on untrained parents who descend on schools with their own agendas. They pose as concerned parents who want to help, but they are undependable and clueless on what schools and the professionals do day after day. In addition, I find it incomprehensible to have a school board made up of non-educators making decisions that effect learning. Maybe I am mistaken but do medical facilities have a board made up of truck drivers. We have lost the fundamental educational focus in the U.S. Over the years schools have become soup kitchens, and baby sitting services. And if that isn’t enough teachers should now be armed as well. Better yet Easy Way to Help number 11 could be arming the parents. "
09/27/2006:
"EXCELLENT IDEAS. THANKS!"
09/27/2006:
"We have a very active group of PTA parents who strongly support our teachers. Our county school district limits the public schools to no more than 2 fundraising acitivities per school office annually (e.g. the media center can have 2 book fairs, the music department can have 2 fundraisers, etc.) so the PTA does a great deal of fundraising and volunteers for the school. They are great. Something we implemented three years ago, which was very successful, is a used book fair. Beginning in November, we ask the students (and parents and teachers) to go through their collections of books and other media at home and bring them to school to donate for the fair. We publicize the event in the local papers and ask people to do this before and after the holidays because there are generally new things from Santa that kids need to make room for at home. We collect books from November through the end of January (CD's DVD's Videos, board games, software, etc. come too!) and sell our books o! ne day only on Valentine's Day. We have a 'presale' on the day before the big sale from dismissal until 4 p.m. for teachers only so that they can get some goodies for their classrooms, and to reward them for their effort in the collection. We price books for the older grades based on popularity (50 cents for Captain Underpants, etc.) and we price less popular books at 25 cents. All 25 cent books are 5 for $1 and all 50 cent books are 3 for $1. Electronic media (popular DVD's etc.) go for $1 and sometimes $2. We have had some sets (Hooked on Phonics) that we sold for $10 and 'coffee table books' from grown ups that we sell for $5. The first year, we raised $700 in one day. The 2nd year we raised $1,100. Last year's total was $1,300. All the money goes back to the media center/library for expenses such as AR tests, new media and books, or whatever our media specialist needs. Since it is a PTA organized event, the media center benefits from it, even though they have their two ! retail book fairs (one fall and one spring). The kids and pare! nts bene fit from cleaning up their 'stuff' and kids get some really great reads that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford. We also have a contest throughout the collection period to see which classroom in each grade level can collect the most books and media. This is an 'honor system' basis, and the teachers must turn in their totals one week before the sale date. The winner at each grade level gets a coupon for 50 cents for each student in the winning class to use at the fair. The top collecting classroom gets $1 coupons for each student. All winning students get to come the the book fair the first 30 minutes before the rest of the school."
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