Its not easy to volunteer for any event and feel unwanted. Sad to say, but such is often the case when events are run by teachers. Many beloved activities that are run by teachers are done year after year to much success. The teachers know how to run it, and often share the concern that parent volunteers won’t run it as well, or with such success as an event has run in the past.
Teachers, admittedly, are control freaks.
And so are parents.
Example: Field Day. In many schools Field Day is an event run by the physical education teacher. She’s been running it for 2 years, 7 years, 25 years and she knows how to run it successfully. Some years, she’s had parent volunteers show up groggy and distracted. Other years parents come with full gusto, ready to work. She never knows what to expect or what will happen. And so, she’s learned, to run it on her own, allowing the volunteers to be there and a part of the event, but not in control.
But when you have parents offering, parents waving with their hands open saying “please. I want to do this. I want to be a part of your event”, its hard for teachers to know how much to let go, often even how safe they will be if they let go.
So, for next year, my advice for the parents who felt their volunteerism is underappreciated and for teachers who recognize that parents can help:
- add-on. Field Day as we know it already rocks. Why try to fix something that’s fantastic? But that’s no reason that we can’t add something new to Field Day. Look at your list of volunteers and focus on their skills. If they’re spirited, add a spirit competition that the parents can run. If they’re atheletic, ask parents to coordinate an all-school warm-up stretch or aerobic dance or add a finale of a relay or mini-marathon. The same can be done with other activities: for a school play, ask the parents to create a program with students or have parents coordinate a cast-party. At an all-school pep-rally, ask the parents to sell t-shirts. If the school runs an international night or career night, ask the parents to host a break room or a welcome lounge.
- communicate. Our school messed up here this year. It was the only activity that we didn’t follow our communication model. And, because of that, we fell apart. We had notes going home from teachers. E-mails sent from homeroom parents. E-mails sent from committee chairs. And all of the e-mails had conflicting information. Always, always, always gather parent and teacher leaders together to discuss and create a formal trail of communication.
- respect. Teachers work hard to create a fun, all-school event. And so do parents. And when they show up to work together, teachers and parents need to remember that they’re all in this together. This is not a time to gossip about the parents or teachers , nor is it a time for anyone to try to talk about things other than the activity at hand. Respect that everyone is there with a common goal. Rather than commenting that its not working, work together to make it work.
Its the little things, really. Parent volnteers shouldn’t need to be in the spotlight. But they should be recognized, remembered and respected so that they’ll want to volunteer again when they are needed in the future.
© 2010, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.