In your efforts to become a successful teacher, it’s vital to learn to appreciate parents and to learn to work them.
Often new teachers feel nervous about having parents in the classroom but remember, the parents are nervous too. You’ll probably have to guide them in their roles (see more on this below) to begin with.
Parent helpers are an invaluable resource, are enthusiastic and many will help with everything from coordinating field trips to cooking with a few students at a time. Children generally love to have their own parents help in the classroom.
Tips for having parents help in the classroom
- Send home a parent volunteer form early in the year with lots of options to choose from:
- This form helps parents define which areas they may like to help with and also let’s them know where you need help.
- Most forms include things like – help with the book fair, drive for field trips, come in and demonstrate a skill, fix broken furniture, help wash dress up clothes and toys, prepare materials for the students (can be done at home)
- The form also includes a space for parents to say when they are available.
- Have a back up plan in case of last-minute cancellations which I found happened often!
- Be prepared to educate parents in the following areas (include guidelines in your form):
- Other children’s progress is confidential and should not be discussed outside the classroom
- Helping in the classroom is not a time for a parent/teacher interview about their child
- It is not the parent helper’s job to “discipline” other people’s children
- Depending on your school, all parents may need a criminal record check before helping in the classroom and/or a visitor’s pass from the office
- A volunteer thank-you tea is always fun at the end of the year. Keep track of who helps you all year so no volunteer is forgotten.
Tips for guiding parents
Often, parent helpers would want to talk to me about everything, including child rearing problems, marriage problems, problems with other parents, financial problems and other life difficulties. Some wanted a sounding board, others were asking for help. It’s crucial to understand and set boundaries early in the year for parent involvement.
- Always let parents know from the beginning that you respect them and their efforts.
- Never contribute to gossip and have a number of topics handy to change the course of conversations.
- Value your time and energy. They are limited commodities and you’re hired to educate the children, not to fix everybody’s problems.
- Don’t hesitate to consult with your principal if situations occur which seem over your head.
- Many principals have a list of parent resources in the community and lists of workshops available for parents to join.
- Learn to be a broken record if conversations become negative or are keeping you from focusing on the students. If you continually give the same responses and then direct the parent helper to a specific task, you teach him/her appropriate classroom parent helping behaviours.