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Bright ideas from our readers: One-hour volunteer ideas

GreatSchools readers share their tips for helping schools in just one hour.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to the Greatschools readers who shared these suggestions for how busy parents can contribute at school or from home. Here's how they help despite their hectic lives:

Talk to your child's teacher to find out how you can make a difference in an hour, advised the busy mom of two girls. "I don't have much spare time, but I volunteer every Friday morning from 8:30-9:30 a.m. helping organize homework folders and grading spelling tests. My child's teacher appreciates my efforts and I feel more in touch with what is going at school."

"I volunteer in my son's classroom once a week during my lunch break. Although I am only there for 30 minutes during the math lab, it is rewarding for me to help the children and my son's teacher expect me every Thursday," said the mom of a Georgia first-grader. She noted that her son enjoys her visits and she believes her volunteering efforts give her son a positive attitude about school and education.

One elementary school mom found that the best use of her limited time is visiting her kids at school during their lunch time. "Besides the direct benefit to each of my children, the teachers appreciate the presence of another adult mingling with the kids and the kids all love it, too! Even though I'm not there as scheduled help with a specific thing to accomplish, my presence is a big deal to the kids and it becomes inadvertent help to the school staff.

Another parent recommended that parents volunteer to watch the school parking lot, escort kids from classrooms to the office, and supervise the playground. She noted that if a few parents would commit to a regular supervision schedule, "We would have a great impact the safety of our kids. The other benefit to this is that our children see mom or dad at school."

An Idaho mom wrote: "I found that any time I had to make copies for a teacher was very much appreciated. I tried to set aside two or three hours one day a week and would do the photo copying for a whole grade. The teachers loved it and it made me appreciate them even more. You just don't realize how much time it takes our teachers to photocopy all the lessons for one week." She also noted that there were prep projects parents could do from home, like sorting letter or word cards into individual baggies for first-graders to take home and study.

The mom of two elementary school girls in Rhode Island said, "While the girls were in kindergarten and first grade, I took all the Scholastic book orders for the class and placed the orders online. I emailed the teacher about how many points she had to order books for the classroom to help build the class library. When the books came in, I spent less than an hour sorting and handing out the books in the classroom. This was welcome reflief for a teacher of over 25 years, and one less new thing for a first year teacher.

A New Jersey mom of two boys shared her tip for helping from home: "Last year I helped build a parent email network at home. The PTO President would ask me to send out e-notices about upcoming events as an extra reminder, and it helped keep everyone connected." She noted that the other busy parents at her school appreciated the simple and convenient way to communicate.

More great ideas from our readers

  • Write grants to fund new programs.
  • Write appreciation letters to teachers and administrators.
  • Coordinate volunteers for class parties and field trips. With email this can be done electronically.
  • Help in the library: assist students with finding or checking out books, shelve books or help with data entry for new books.
  • Manage school book orders for the teacher: collect the orders, place the order online and help sort and distribute the books.
  • Give your child's teacher a short break by supervising the class in the lunchroom.

Comments from readers

"My husband works full time, so instead he finds things in the classroom to work on at home. This past weekend, he took home the classroom backpack rack and replaced a couple wood, sanded it down and repainted it. The kids absolutely loved it! "
"Another option at our school is helping grade papers at home. The students have daily math quizzes, monthly math, etc. and it is a great help to the teacher for parents to pitch in. You can do it at home while your child does his homework! Another great way to help is in the library. You can arrange to volunteer at the desk, checking out books for students, during the time your child visits the library. "
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone would volunteer to give Karate lessons after school for the children. I have a 5 year old grandson at the elementary school there. And I know when I was a teacher at another school district after school, a Karate instructor would come and teach the children for an hour. This really helps a child build up their self esteem and helps instill discipline and motivation in their lives. It would be wonderful if something like this was started for all students. "
"Another idea I have noticed to keep the noise down in the cafterias is this. I noticed one cafteria installed a bell sound, so if the noise level gets too high, the bell rings and the students know they are getting too loud. I think this is great because it becomes a first alternative to a teacher's loud reminder!"
"The lunchroom at my son's school gets so loud and crazy before recess. Threats don't work. Any ideas as to how to keep the children in their seats and focus on eating their lunches?"
"I think there are LOTS of really great ideas here! I live 50 miles away from my daughter's family, but going in one day per week would be great!"
"Parent volunteers are a welcome assest in any school. In many schools in California our parents who want to volunteer more than a one time event they have hoops to jump through. Potential volunteers need to complete a volunteer application, take a TB test, and pay $32 to be finger printed. With these obsticals who would really want to help? "
"I help the teacher in the morning for one hour. Handing any MEMOs to the parents, making things for the day, like play-do, copies of the letter of the day etc... Sometimes supervising the kids when it's time for breakfast. It helps my 3 year old to stay the rest of the day happy!"
"By the way, someone please enlighten me is grading children's spelling test not the violation of child's privacy ? As soon as child's name is written on a paper only teacher should be allowed to see/check that sheet not by any body. Volunteering should be very well defined, otherwise there are enough people who will take advantage of free help. "