St. Charles Herald-Guide

Parish school volunteers do more than just organize bake sales and fairs

LSU AgCenter News - August 23, 2007

With the start of school, many parentsí thoughts go to preparing their child for a positive start, however, little time is spent figuring out how parents can get involved in supporting their child during the school year, according to 4-H youth development professor Dr. Janet Fox.

Although time is often tight, squeezing in a few hours of volunteer work can make a big difference.

"Parents who get involved as volunteers not only benefit their child but benefit the school and their teacher," Fox said, noting that research shows that children whose parents volunteer at school have a better attitude and achieve more in school.

Teachers who are supported by school volunteers do a better job. Parents benefit by being better equipped to help their child with schoolwork as well as becoming more aware of the many opportunities available to their child.

To volunteer, parents should contact the teacher or check with a local school parent-teacher group such as the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) or the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization).

Volunteer guidelines vary by schools and school districts. Some schools take parent volunteers who show up, and others require volunteers to be screened and trained prior to starting their volunteer task. Itís important to look into your particular schoolís policy on volunteering.

"Prior to getting started, parents should think about their skills and interests as well as the time they have available," Fox said, adding, "In thinking about their skills, parents should identify the skills they can share with the teacher."

Parents also should realistically gauge the time they have available and when that time is. If parents work out of their home or have a flexible boss, working in the classroom during the day might be an option. Common volunteer opportunities include tutoring students, supervising children on the playground, helping out with an educational experience, setting up a class party or chaperoning a field trip.

If a parentís schedule is limited during the day, other options are working at home after school or occasionally volunteering for a field trip. Volunteer opportunities could include processing classroom materials, creating a classroom Web site or newsletter, collecting coupons or labels to benefit the school, phoning other parents, assembling classroom learning kits or contacting resource persons.

No matter what volunteer role a parent plays or talents they offer, the volunteer help will be appreciated.

"Parent volunteers make an important contribution that supports their child, the teacher and the school," Fox said.

For related family topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.