Parents often come into my office with concerns about their children’s behavior. As I delve into the details, there are often key aspects of the school day that the parents simply don’t know. It often surprises parents when my advice is to arrange times to volunteer in their children’s classroom. It is amazing what you can learn by spending some regular time in the classroom. The more opportunities you can volunteer during regular activities (not just class parties), the more insightful the experience will be.
Seeing firsthand may add insight into why kids act the way they do
- How does your child behave in class? (Of note, your child may act differently the first few times you are in class due to the newness of you being there).
- How does your child interact with other children? Is your child the class clown, being bullied, or completely isolated?
- How does your child stack up next to his/her peers in terms of academic and social development? It may be that you don’t realize your child is really behind in a certain area until seeing other children of the same age.
- What is the teacher’s style of discipline? Is she really strict? Does she single out problem behaviors or discipline the entire class (which can cause a well behaved kid a lot of stress).
- How orderly is the class? (Is your child one that is easily overwhelmed by chaos?)
- How able is the school/teacher able to accommodate different levels of learning? (Is your child bored to death because it’s so slow or being left in the dust?)
Tips while you’re there
- Learn the other kid’s names. It will help add context to the stories your child tells you about school.
- Learn how the teacher runs the class. This will help you advise your child how to succeed in that particular class.
- Learn the teacher’s method of discipline (e.g., moving a clip, pulling a card, names on the board).
- Let the teacher run the class. The classroom is her domain. She’ll introduce you and let you know what she needs help with.
Kids of parents who volunteer have:
- Higher test scores
- Better grades
- Higher self esteem
- Better behavior
- Improved attendance
- Higher rates of graduation
Every school/district is a little different and has different requirements. At my kid’s school, all parent volunteers have to have a background check. Know the requirements ahead of time.
At the beginning of every school year, I make a concerted effort to get into my children’s classrooms. Believe me, I understand life is busy and it’s hard to find the time. Get creative. My son’s class had need for parent reading help. I went every other week from 8-8:30 am, just before work. Over time, I read with most of the kids in his class and learned lots of information. This year, I told my daughter’s teacher the few times I was available. She was happy for the help and easily accommodated my quirky schedule. It also makes communication with that teacher easy, since we get to know each other.