Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 Ideas for 10 Minutes: How You Can Help In Your Child's Classroom

We don't all have time (or the desire) to help out in our kids' classrooms. Some parents are working or caring for young children at home, and are unavailable during school hours. Other parents may feel uncomfortable in the classroom. With up to 30% more kids in class, there's up to 30% more grading, recording, prepping, and sorting. Taking care of simple tasks, such as those listed below, make more of a difference than you realize.

According to the National Parent-Teacher Association's Three for Me program, volunteering in the classroom for just three hours over the course of the entire school year is enough to make an impact. That equates to one minute per school day, or 10 minutes every other week. That's totally manageable, right?!

We wanted to share some of our ideas with you. After chatting with some of our teacher friends, here's a list of 10 things you can do to help your child's teacher in just 10 minutes.

In the classroom (10 minutes before or after school):

1. Sharpen pencils. Students use their pencils constantly. They are always breaking them, looking for a sharper one, or digging in their desk for one. They end up on the floor, in the hallway, mixed in with the other supplies, and there's a good chance that at least one student is hoarding more than their fair share. Many teachers don't allow students to sharpen pencils during class time because it's too loud. That leaves before school, after school, and during recess/lunch to sharpen. It's a loud and monotonous job, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a teacher that wouldn't appreciate this. Having an ample supply of pencils helps the day run smoothly, and it only takes a few minutes.

2. Straighten desks back into alignment. Kids move their desks around all day long. They're in their seats, out of their seats, moving other people's desks, and shuffling through the classroom constantly. Sometimes, the desks get shifted so much that it makes it hard to get through some tight areas. It doesn't seem like much, but it makes a big difference.

3. Make photocopies. This was the #1 response to my teacher-friends inquiry on Facebook. Make sure you know how to operate the copier before you volunteer for this one! There's usually a mad dash to the copier during prime times (before school, during the first recess, after school), so if you can run some copies just after students enter the classrooms in the morning, you'll probably have it all to yourself.

4. Sort supply boxes. Although most teachers show students how to put supplies away, students tend to throw things in their pencil box, in the supply box for the table, or in a box kept somewhere in the classroom. All chaos breaks loose when one box has 2 blues and is missing a yellow. Helping keep supplies in order also helps us keep track of what we need more of.

5. Put up (or take down) chairs. Most teachers put chairs up on desks after school (some older kids do this themselves) so that the floors can be cleaned, and take them down in the morning before school starts. Having a few extra minutes in the morning to finish breakfast, suck down some coffee, or make copies makes for a great start to the day.

6. Pass out papers (mailboxes/cubbies). Teachers tend to get bombarded with flyers that need to go home all on the same day, and getting papers in the morning that need to go home that day don't always get passed out. This is even more helpful when student work needs to get passed back.

At home:

7. Grade homework. Sometimes, teachers prefer that this is done at school. However, if your child's teacher is okay with you taking it home, this might be an excellent way to help out weekly. Most parents go over homework with their kids at home, so most of it comes back correct. If you are able to help out weekly, homework grades will be more consistent. As with any student work, please remember that their work is confidential, and it is inappropriate to discuss a students' work with anyone other than the teacher.

8. Send out email blasts or newsletters. Gmail (and others, I'm sure) makes it so easy to send out email blasts as a confidential group. Teachers can write the email, or give suggestions for the newsletter, and parent volunteers can email and follow-up with other parents. Emails are really useful for field trip and permission slip reminders, as well as reminders about school and class events.

9. Alphabetize/sort papers. It's so much easier to input grades when the papers are scored and in the same order as the gradebook. Ask your child's teacher how you can help sort and organize classroom papers to make their job easier.

10. Prepare art or science materials. Sometimes, teachers shy away from awesome lessons because there is so much prep time involved. This includes grocery shopping, packaging individual bags or supplies, cutting reams of paper, assembling packets, and things like that. If you've got time at home to help prepare for material-heavy lessons, the student will be so grateful. And not to mention, your child will LOVE helping you prepare materials, and will be proud to talk all about it at school.