Mandatory Volunteerism

I think that over many of my posts, I have established that my world orbits around my children at this point in my life. As committed as I am to be a part of their lives and education, and to help them get ready to be their own independent little persons away from home during those hours they spend at school; I am not completely crazy about the idea of volunteering in the classroom -especially when this task is just scheduled on the calendar for you.

I have many problems with the concept, which seems to come up more often in preschool than in grade school.

Firstly, why call it volunteering when is something more like a “mandatory volunteerism” that teachers and the preschool staff just expect that you do because you stay-at-home with your children. I am not saying that I do not like going to my kids’ field trips or classroom parties. I am not saying I do not like to participate in their education by contributing whenever I can. What I am saying is why don’t schools take into account the fact that stay-at-home moms have an endless list of responsibilities and possibly, other little people to care for while the preschooler is at school. It would be nice to be asked first if coming to the classroom is the way we want to make an impact to their education on a particular calendar year or month.

Secondly, I am more than happy to come volunteer when I can be of actual help. For example, when there’s a topic that I’m knowledgeable about or there’s an activity that I can help improve or just make easier by offering a hand. But I really don’t see the point in coming to be an spectator in the classroom. I am now in the building, please put me to work.

Thirdly, I love getting to know my kids’ peers and friends and volunteering gives me the right opportunity but please, don’t expect me to help discipline the children who are out of control. It has happened more than once where I had found myself wanting to take the stern look that I take with my children when they are braking the rules and just being careless about their safety. But what can you do as the volunteer mom? I mean, they do not give you a pamphlet on how to handle poor behavior. I understand the teachers have their lesson plan and often times can’t see what is going on in the entire classroom, but then, please help guiding us on what are the classroom expectations and the protocol to deal with disruptive and rude behavior.

Lastly, volunteering doesn’t have to be coming to the classroom. I would be more than happy to help in many more ways if given the chance to do so remotely and in my own time. Do you need someone to coordinate a party? To help with the visuals for a lesson? To do a Power Point Presentation? To burn a CD? To take photos at a field trip that I am already signed up to go?

I would be more than happy to help where I can, but also know that I will only volunteer to do the things that make me happy because this isn’t just a help to the teacher, it should also bring joy to the other parties involved. I hear moms complaining all the time about how they “have” to bring cookies, or bake a cake, or come to the classroom after having a sleepless night with a little baby. It doesn’t seem fair to me that we “have” to do anything that just adds more stress and little benefit to our children’s day in the classroom.

With a little extra coordination from the schools and by linking parents’ talents with their time availability, we could make volunteering in the classroom an actual way to “freely offer our help” and be happy about it.

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