When my son entered preschool, I had a tough time adjusting. For years, I was with him every second and suddenly there were hours where I had no idea of what he was doing. Well, I had a vague sense of what was going on, but I wanted specifics. And while I knew his academic journey was one that I wouldn't always be a part of, I needed to be involved somehow. So I volunteered as a class parent. No longer just bringing cupcakes in for parties (not always allowed!), being a class parent means interacting with the kids -- reading, demonstrating and yes, teaching. And if you are lucky, you may even learn a thing or two too.
Time Required: Varies
- Find out what the teacher wants, don't give what you think she needs. Want to help? Ask the teacher what it is she is looking for. Maybe she would like someone to organize a program where parents come in and read each week. Maybe she needs someone to be in charge of the snack money. Feel free to share your own ideas, but it is important to remember that the teacher is in charge of the classroom, so what she says goes. If you are uncertain about something, ask.
- Offer your own ideas, but don't be offended if the teacher doesn't take them. Got a wonderful book that you think would be perfect to read to your child's class? Itching to share a cute craft you found? Definitely tell the teacher your thoughts. If she doesn't incorporate your suggestion right away (or at all), don't be upset. It's possible she just has a strict lesson plan she wants to follow, or maybe she feels like it won't work well with all of the children in the class.
- Good communication is key. Before you come into the classroom, work out with the teacher exactly when you need to be there and what you will be doing. Make sure everyone is clear -- will you be bringing a snack? Are there things you should avoid? Make these types of arrangements at a time that is good for the teacher -- probably not during drop-off or pick-up -- so she isn't caught up in the chaos that can exist in a room full of small children.
- Take your cues from the teacher. Once you enter the classroom, let the teacher take the lead by introducing you to the children. It might be tempting to scoop up your little one or just start talking or playing, but many of the kids might not understand who you are or what you are doing there. Wait until the teacher gives you some cues and then you can start doing what you came to do. And by all means, you can certainly give your child a hug, but with boundaries -- see the next step.
- Try not to focus solely on your own child. It's very easy when visiting the classroom to engage only with your son or daughter, but remember the focus of your visit. Whether you are there to read, help with a craft or a party, be sure to give all the children equal attention.
- Don't visit the classroom unexpectedly. When my son was in preschool, one well-meaning mom used to "pop in" with snacks and books she thought the kids might like. While her intentions were good, it caused quite a disruption and the teacher had to politely ask her to stop. The majority of preschool teachers have a very tight schedule and even the slightest distraction can make the entire day veer off-kilter.
- Know when to leave. I know, I know, once you are in the classroom, it is a hard place to leave. That's a good sign -- it's a place you know and love and know your child is safe. But the best guests know when it is time to say goodbye. Read the story, do the craft and then walk out the door.
- It is great when parents come into the classroom to help, but remember there are many children in that room who are wishing you were their own mother or father. Many schools limit visitations by parents in the beginning of the school year, especially when the class is made up of kids three years old and younger who are just learning to cope with separation.
- Let's face it, it is a big deal for your child when you come into their school. So while you shouldn't give your preschooler all your attention, it's definitely OK to give them a hug and a kiss. When they get home from school, talk about how excited you were to visit their class and how you can't wait to do it again.
What You Need
- Good communication skills
- A knowledge of what the teacher wants
- Books the children will enjoy
- Lots of ideas