Today I want to share an important idea that has really helped me in the classroom. Many of us have parents or volunteers coming into the classroom to help out. They can be a blessing - but also a burden if they generate more work for you.
So, to eliminate that burden, I have come up with a couple easy tips for you:
Before you solicit volunteers, you need to plan out the areas in the classroom that you will need help in. At Back to School Night, I send home a "Parent Volunteer Form" with all of the areas that I need help in. Parents check off which areas they are willing to help in and send it back into me. It provides guidance for me and direction for the parents, so they know generally what they are signing up for. I make a chart based on their responses and refer to it throughout the year.
Some of the give to in-the-classroom helpers are:
Sorting / Collating
Putting together packets
Putting together center games/activities
Working with struggling students
Listening to students read
Cutting our lamination
Helping set-up for parties
Grading, etc. at home
Usually, when a parent or volunteer comes into the classroom to help, I can't stop what I'm doing and give them a lengthy explanation of what I need them to do.
So, I have tried to stay as organized as possible to maximize the volunteer's time and efforts.
Here is my Teacher Assistant table:
The blue container is actually a cutlery organizer from the Dollar Tree. I bought it to store all of the necessary helper supplies - pens, scissors, glue, staples, sticky notes, etc. I also have a clock so that they know what time it is and they can leave when they need to. This is especially helper for my high school Teaching Assistant who comes in for one class period and then has to leave at a certain time. It is her responsibility to be sure she makes her next class :)
When I know I am going to have a helper come in, I always make sure to have LOTS for them to do. I make sure that every task is clearly labeled with instructions so that they can work efficiently and accurately without waiting for me to answer questions.
Last year I went through hundreds of Post-it Notes as I wrote daily notes to my helpers. This year, however, I have tried another system that is really seeming to work. I typed up common directions (ones that stay the same week to week or are used for multiple assignments through the week) and printed them on colorful paper.
I laminated the notes so that I could write on them any additional specifics with a dry erase marker.
I also created a couple of blank ones to customize, as needed:
Then, when I need an assignment graded or entered, I simply put the note on top of the pile:
When I send home my Parent Volunteer form, the parents can select how many days a month they want to volunteer (typically 1, 2, or 4). I then take that information plus what they signed up to do (help in the classroom, volunteer at parties, etc.) and create a Volunteer Calendar for the month. I send it home to all of the parents, so they know when I'm expecting them to come. Nothing's worse that doing all of the prep work for a volunteer and then having them not show up! I tell volunteers that they can certainly change their day (the calendar is not set in stone), but I'd like to know ahead of time.
Other teachers at my school have a more simple system: they post a blank calendar of that month outside their classroom door. When parents drop off their kids in the mornings, they can sign their name in a day (or two!), volunteering to come in and help that day. You can send home e-mail reminders once a week to the parents who signed up to come in.
Twice a year - Christmas and the end of the year - I like to show appreciation to the parents who help our classroom in some way (by either coming into the classroom or completing jobs at home).
Here are some ideas for you to tuck away for the future:
I have included some parent volunteer thank-you notes (as well as tons of other thank-yous for all occasions!) in this simple, print-and-go packet:
I'm linking up with my bud, Joanne, from "Head Over Heels for Teaching," for her Spark Motivation Saturdays - hopefully this will motivate some of you teachers out there to properly use parent volunteers - you deserve the help!