Parent participation at school matters—a lot. According to the National Education Association, having parents and other caregivers who are active in school can boost a child’s grades, encourage better behavior and foster a positive attitude about learning. But kids aren’t the only ones who benefit: getting involved can increase your confidence in the school system, expand your social network and help you feel connected to a community.
For working parents, participating in school activities can seem like a time-consuming chore at the bottom of a long to-do list. But getting involved doesn’t mean you have to be president of the PTA. In fact, many schools encourage parents to volunteer just three hours of their time over the course of the entire academic year. Use these ideas to get active in your child’s school in a way that is meaningful and realistic for you—even if you’re short on time.
Stay in the loop.
If you want to get involved, but aren’t sure where or how to begin, stay up to date with what’s happening at school and in the classroom. These simple tips will get you started:
1. Attend a back-to-school event. Schools often hold a back-to-school fair or open house to welcome families, distribute important information about the upcoming year, introduce teachers, and discuss new programs and curriculum. It’s a great way to start the year in the know.
2. Read all school communications. School flyers, newsletters and emails (yes, all of them) will help you be aware of events that are happening, stay updated on your child’s schoolwork, and give you fodder to start conversations with your kid about what is going on in the classroom.
3. Participate in after-hours school events. Fundraisers, sporting events, open houses, theater productions and fairs are great opportunities to support the school without skipping work or burning precious vacation time. Volunteer opportunities also exist at many of these events and can be an easy way to give your time to the school. One- or two-hour shifts might include setting up or breaking down an event, manning a concession stand or selling tickets.
Tap into your talents.
School administrations and PTA groups often need assistance when it comes to crafting newsletters, designing marketing materials, writing grant proposals, organizing fundraisers and service opportunities, or even touting the school’s award-winning programs to the local paper. If you have these sought-after skills and are willing to put in a few hours a month pro-bono, talk to school administrators and other groups about how you can help. Here’s a few other ways to put your skills and talents to work for your child’s school:
1. Participate in career day. Tell the students about what you do for work, why you enjoy your job and how they can do it too.
2. Coach a team. If you’re ready and willing to relive your athletic glory days, assistant coaching may for you.
3. Advise a club. Sports aren’t the only after-school activity. Science and STEM groups, service organizations, scouting, academic teams and theater troops are often looking for assistance from parents. If you have an interest in sharing your passion for a particular subject, ask how you can get involved.
Get active in school.
Schools typically have volunteer opportunities available during the day if your work schedule is flexible. Here’s what you can do:
1. Be a guest reader in your child’s classroom.
2. Volunteer to be a lunchroom or recess monitor, a school crossing guard or a library assistant.
3. Chaperone a field trip.
4. Organize class parties.
Take it to the next level.
Do you have the time and desire to make a bigger commitment to the school? While it requires more effort and energy, taking on a larger role can be a rewarding experience. Consider these options:
1. Join the PTA. Nearly all schools have an organization for parents. Opportunities exist to be an officer, such as president, secretary, or treasurer, as well as to head up committees for specific events or taskforces.
2. Be the welcome wagon. Some schools have official programs in place to help welcome new students and parents into their community by pairing them with veteran families. No program at your school? Start one!
3. Run for school board. Decisions, including critical choices about funding, are often made at the district level. If you want to affect change, consider taking on a role that will allow you to play a part in determining the direction of your child’s school.