[Guest post by Karen Bantuveris of VolunteerSpot]
When it comes to parent volunteers in the classroom, do you find yourself wanting (more) help but are not getting it, or are you not getting the kind of help that would be truly useful to you and your students? Many parents are comfortable volunteering for class parties and school fundraisers, but with a little guidance, they can also become valuable partners supporting student learning and success.
Encourage parents to volunteer at your school with these simple tips:
1. Set the Stage
You don’t ask your students to participate; you expect them to. Starting at Back to School Night and continuing throughout the term, set clear expectations with parents that their participation is welcome, valued and important in achieving the year’s goals.
2. Offer Many Options
Give parents lots of opportunities, times & ways to volunteer in school and at home. To keep parents interested, survey them to ask about their unique talents, hobbies, or jobs that might be beneficial to school and classroom themes throughout the year.
3. Make it easy for parents to sign up to help—then remind them!
Skip the paper sign up sheets, long discussion threads and ‘reply-all’ email chains – schedule learning station helpers, library and recess volunteers, and parents to read to the class and staff fundraisers with free online sign up sheets by VolunteerSpot. Parents will be able to schedule themselves for volunteer shifts from their smartphone or computer, receive automated reminders, and sync commitments to their calendars, which results in fewer accidental no-shows.
4. Leverage working parents.
Find creative ways to engage working parents including:
• scheduling reading circles and volunteer shifts at the start of the day so parents can help before work;
• using video calling platforms like Facetime or Skype to encourage parents to read to the class or help with homework and assignments at a pre-scheduled time;
• asking parents to contribute from home by updating the class website, managing the online volunteer calendar, planning fundraisers, or preparing learning center materials;
• offering weekend opportunities that also include students like watering the class garden or painting props for the holiday performance.
5. Plan for parent volunteers.
Keep a current Volunteer Interest Form on the school website and make parking, sign-in, and security checks as convenient as possible for parents. In the classroom, establish regular, weekly 30-40 minute sessions for volunteers. When practical, recruit a lead parent who can help assign volunteer roles, answer questions, and write instructions for frequent volunteer duties, such as working at math stations or in the technology lab, or updating portfolios. Maintain an online calendar of volunteer needs as far in advance as possible. This will increase parent response rates by making it easy for them to choose the best fit for their busy schedules.
6. Show appreciation.
Recognizing parent volunteers is a surefire way to grow your parent volunteer pool and keep them returning to help in the classroom. Let parents know that you and your students value their contributions, no matter how small or how involved. Consider sending them student-created thank you cards, hand-written notes from you, and photos or short videos via text, email or posted on the class blog.
VolunteerSpot is proud to save teachers and parent leaders hundreds of hours by simplifying the task of signing up, scheduling, and reminding parents–reducing busy work and leaving more time to focus on what’s important. Use VolunteerSpot for coordinating classroom helpers and scheduling parent-teacher conference appointments, fundraisers, potlucks and more. Take a tour today.