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Am I the only parent that finds school, well, sort-of exhausting?
Between getting our kids out the door in the morning, packing lunches, handling homework, and trying to keep track of the gazillion papers, notes, and permission slips that get sent home on a daily basis, school can sometimes feel like a full-time job for US, not just for them.
And that doesn’t even count the fundraisers or the volunteering. Candy sales, discount card sales, plant sales, Smencils sales (yes, scented pencils), the Booster Club, the PTA, the class parties and field trips…the list goes on and on.
Of course, we ALL want to support our kids’ school and activities—but sometimes it can all feel just a little overwhelming.
But deep down, as overwhelmed as we can sometimes feel just trying to keep up, I think most of us still want to help somehow.. We want to be supportive and helpful. We want our kids to know we value their education. We want to teach them about pitching in, leading, service, and helping their community. And we want our children’s teachers to know how much we appreciate what THEY are pouring in to our kids as well!
Good news: You can still support your child’s teacher and school, and even volunteer your time and assistance without that much effort. And, believe it or not, it is often the non-monetary support that means the most!
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This is especially important if you’re struggling to get a handle on your budget or your time. Another sale might be tough to take on. Don’t feel guilty if you need to sit one or two out, or if you prefer to help in other ways. Frazzled school administrators and teachers are grateful for your help in any capacity and no one will judge you for setting appropriate boundaries with your time, money and energy.
There are MANY ways you can be an awesome school supporter without breaking your budget, squeezing your time, or buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need. There are even a few ways you’re probably helping already!
Here are 10 Awesome Ways to Support Your Kids’ Teachers and School…
1. Help Your Child Arrive on Time
It may seem like no big deal, but when a student is late it sets the whole class back. Teachers are often aiming to pack as much learning into the day as possible. The first few minutes are when students learn the overview of the day and what they’re about to learn.
Helping your kids arrive at school and get to class on time eases interruptions in an already busy and full classroom. Arriving on time means the teacher starts instruction promptly instead of needing to backtrack and re-explain the plan for the day, instructions on an assignment or other important information.
If you struggle with mornings (and we all do sometimes), it helps to prep for the day the night before, or even on the weekends when you have more time. Help kids get their school clothes out for the next day. Prepare lunches and put them in the fridge. Gather permission slips, keys, backpacks and any other items you need to get out the door, and put them all together to grab and go. Spending 10-15 minutes at night when things are calm will smooth out any frazzled situations in the morning when you’re rushed.
2. Read Materials Sent Home
Another great way to support your kids’ school is to simply go through your child’s Thursday Folder, the School Newsletter, the Parent Portal and any other communication from the school. Staff and teachers spend lots of time compiling information parents need. They WANT to share it with you.
If you feel like you aren’t getting enough communication from your school, ask! Check in with your kid’s teachers to see if you’re missing any information or if there’s a place to check in. Each school has their own preferred method of communication. Some schools use social media groups, some use parent communication software and some prefer paper. Be aware of the communication methods preferred by your kid’s school.
Keep your login saved right in your computer to easily access the info. Set a reminder on your calendar or in your planner so you review school communications for 10-15 minutes each week. This helps you quickly identify what’s going on so you won’t miss out on any events and opportunities to support your school!
3. Return Permission Slips Promptly
Teachers send permission slips, volunteer opportunities and conference signup sheets home regularly, but it’s tough to keep track of all the information and the due dates.
When a permission slip comes home or a link is sent out online, fill out the slip right away, and add the information to your calendar! Don’t wait for a second notice, a phone call or a reminder. Teachers often don’t have time to contact every parent individually to remind them of upcoming events.
One way to keep a handle on all the paperwork is to create a special spot for it, in a central location. If you’ve set up a family control center, a desk or a spot in the kitchen where you put paperwork, set a policy to review the papers daily (or every other day). Younger kids might need help sorting through their backpack and prioritizing. As soon as you take care of the slip, put it right back in the bag.
4. Follow School Rules
As parents, we want to help our kids learn to follow rules and respect guidelines. One of the most powerful ways is to follow rules ourselves. This means having an awareness of school policies and procedures. Many schools set guidelines about checking students out through the office or bringing a signed note when they leave. Schools often set rules about cell phone usage and contacting students during the day.
Of course there are exceptions to rules and in an emergency, you may fly by the seat of your pants. Schools understand this and the administration will often allow for special circumstances. But, even if you need to get your kid a message during the day, don’t text them or call if the school rules prohibit it. This leaves your kid in a conundrum—do you respond to mom’s text or do you follow the school rules?
Instead leave a message in the office or follow the preference of your school. Check kids out using the protocol set forth by your school, rather than going around or bending the rules. If your school requests no cell phone usage in the pickup line or parking in the fire lane, put down the phone! Many times, the school puts these guidelines in place for safety. Show the school you support their policies.
5. Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering is awesome. Let’s hear it for the volunteers! As moms, we often feel guilty if we can’t volunteer for every single event. Well, let go of the guilt! You’re not expected to volunteer at every event, so simply offer to do what’s feasible with your schedule.
Moms and dads who work full-time can help out in other ways. Offer to take home and address envelopes for your school’s alumni outreach. If you’re great at technology, offer to assist with the school’s website, flyers or social media. Visit on Career Day or offer to help on your day off.
Parents with a little more scheduling flexibility could bring younger siblings along and volunteer to read with a group (in the mornings, before naptime). Maybe offer to assist during lunch a few times a month or offer to come in to help sort and organize gym equipment, library books or office supplies. Offer to chaperone a field trip or put up signs promoting school events at local businesses. Volunteering is flexible—there are plenty of opportunities that don’t call for a set schedule. You can do it!
6. Join the PTA or Advisor Board
Almost every school has a parent teacher association (PTA) or parent teacher organization (PTO). Some schools also have a Board of Directors or Advisory Board (particularly private schools). Now, joining the PTA seems like “one more item” to add to your to do list—but it’s perfectly okay to join with the caveat you might not be able to attend every event but you’ll do what you can.
Many parent groups divide up the jobs and opportunities. You don’t need to take on the role of president or treasurer (unless you really want to). Simply offer to help decorate classroom doors during Teacher Appreciation Week or help (wo)man the raffle at the school carnival.
Depending on your school, they may prefer parents on their advisory board or they may lean toward community members. Often the focus of boards is on fundraising and fiscal oversight of the school. However, if you’ve got a special skill such as marketing, networking, nonprofit experience or even health/nutrition, you may offer valuable insight and assistance. Many private and smaller schools need help networking with their alumni, setting up nutrition and health policies, and even interviewing and screening potential employees. Offering your vocational skills in a different capacity is a great way to support your school!
7. Address Concerns with the Teacher First
When a concern arises about a teacher, when there’s a bullying situation, or when our child is struggling with a subject, it’s hard not to put on our Supermom hats and swoop in to “fix the situation.” When we swoop in, we often go straight to administration or even address the issue with another parent or student directly. We might complain about a teacher to our fellow parents or express frustration with school policy before we’ve addressed the issue head on.
We all want to protect our kids. We want to help the solve their problems. If something’s going wrong, it’s heartbreaking as a mom not to jump in and fix it right away. After all, isn’t fixing problems what being a great mom is all about?
Supporting our kid’s school means understanding the hierarchy of the school. If there’s a concern with your child, the first step is to address the concern with your classroom teacher. Teachers spend day in and day out with our kids. They often offer insight into situations we don’t know about and may paint a different picture. If you’ve addressed concerns with a teacher, ask for an actionable time frame. If the issue seems to get brushed aside, then address the issue with the next level of support (administration). Support your school by first showing you support the classroom teacher.
8. Assume Good Intentions
When schools implement frustrating changes—a new dress code, a shift in rule enforcement, a confusing homework policy—a kneejerk reaction is to vent frustration right away. What do we do? We post about our feelings on Facebook. We complain to other parents in the carpool line. We get annoyed and upset, but we might forget to address our frustrations with the school.
Many of the rules set forth by schools (good or bad) are put in place for an underlying reason. The policies, curriculum, communication tools and methods are created with intention. Schools want to educate kids in the best way they’re able. Many schools are short-staffed and underfunded. Many teachers might be dealing with full classrooms where they’re facing behavioral problems to address.
One way to shift your frustration with your school is to add a little perspective. Realize they want to help your child. They WANT to work with you. Assuming good intentions helps shift perspectives. Are there teachers who are jerks? Yes of course! Just like there are jerks everywhere. But for the most part, it’s safe to assume they want to help your relationship work.
9. Promote School Events & Social Shares
An easy way to support your school? Like, super-duper easy? Share your school events on social media, via email and even with paper flyers! If your school has a website or a Facebook group, send out awesome happenings to family and friends. Promote your school and show school pride!
It’s so easy to support your school simply by advocating for what’s going on there. If your child creates a beautiful art project or comes home and says how much they loved their math class today, share the love! Let friends and family know your school is great.
Sharing small victories and achievements might not lead to financial support of the school, but then again it actually MIGHT. Creating a positive ripple effect in the community helps others see the great environment at your school. You never know when a person will be touched by a story, inspired to assist a classroom or feel motivated to get involved. Spread the enthusiasm!
10. Donate & Help with Fundraising
When we think of “supporting our school,” fundraising is what comes to mind. The sales and promotions, the events and the rallies. Here’s the deal, like I said before, you don’t need to buy every candy bar or beanie baby to support the school. Simply opt to donate instead.
If you’re financially struggling, consider other options for helping. If your school is having a sale, could you promote it at the office or share information about the sale with friends and family? If you work for a restaurant, a salon, even a dental office, would they offer a gift certificate for the raffle? Would they purchase an ad to support your school directory?
Supporting your school doesn’t always mean writing a check. Support could mean helping your school connect with local business owners, donors and others with the means for donations. Help by suggesting names, making connections with development staff or creatively promoting the school. If your school has a legacy giving program, you can make a commitment now or ask to be contacted a little later. This allows you to show support today, even if you can’t give right now.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start supporting your school today! Showing support doesn’t need to cost a dime. You’ll feel like a rockstar mom when you support your kid’s school.
Think creatively when it comes to school support. Remember that school support doesn’t need to be stressful. It’s very rewarding and can even be a lot of fun!