By Leslie Crawford
Highly effective volunteering. The school year's just started, and the volunteering mania (and guilt-tripping) has already begun. Don't get us wrong. In these budget-squeezing times, schools rely on parents like you to help keep them afloat. But consider being strategic about how you donate your valuable time and energy. Ask the school or your child's teacher for a list of the year's school events and class trips, as well as wish lists of needed resources. Then in advance — before you come down with a severe case of volunteer burnout — decide what you are able to take on.
When choosing what you'll do, remember that although research shows that all parental involvement improves student learning — both for the whole school and the child of the volunteering parent — not all volunteering packs the same educational punch. Fundraising, for instance, has less of an impact than helping in the classroom or correcting essays. Rule of thumb? Ask if your contribution directly supports student learning. Then when the PTA head calls at 8 p.m. desperately pleading for a quadruple recipe of your triple fudge brownies, do the math and graciously decline: "Sorry, but I've already committed to working on October's science fair and simply can't take on another task this semester."
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