My journey into teaching came about through becoming a parent volunteer in the nursery when my eldest child began attending (another mother and I shared child-minding service – she would look after my littlest and I did likewise for her so we could both give two hours a week). Washing paint pots, clearing clutter, listening to children read were some of the things I did and when my oldest transferred to primary school and my youngest was in morning nursery I split my volunteering between the two schools and graduated in to a year one classroom as a parent volunteer one morning a week as well. This led to becoming a teaching assistant in the school and then going back to university to gain my post graduate teaching qualification and begin my career as a teacher.
So I know how rewarding it can be to volunteer and I know as a teacher how wonderful it is to have the services of dedicated volunteer parents in the class. I also know how not everyone sees things this way! However, the added pair of hands, the extra pair of eyes and ears and the various talents volunteers bring with them into the classroom all helps to organise a busy class. I have often asked parents to volunteer to join in for the occasional “making afternoons” – building ships, bridges, Tudor houses, papier-mâché Greek vases, musical instruments, sewing pencil cases etc or for supporting on school trips and mums, dads, grandmas, granddads, uncles and aunts have all trooped through my door willing to support their child (as well as a couple of others!) This more individualised support is invaluable as it allows children to experience things they would otherwise not be able to both inside and outside the classroom. I also like that years later when I meet parents of children who have since left my school they remind me of how I "collared" them into coming in and showing off their talents and what they learned by being in the class!
Times have changed since I was a parent volunteer and all parents that wish to volunteer on a regular basis now have to be CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checked before they can begin volunteering in school. There have been various articles written in the press about how this can put some parents off volunteering but if children are going to be mixing within the classroom and school halls with adults on a regular basis then it is a reasonable precaution to take to safeguard them to the best of our ability.
Since becoming the SENCO at my school, I have also asked certain parents if they would be willing to give some extra support for children with special needs and we have talked about the need for confidentiality and the need to understand the position of the parents of these children so that no-one is upset by the offer of help. I always tell volunteer parents that there are plenty of opportunities in school for them to be placed in different areas so if they find it hard working with children with SEN then they must tell me and they can be offered alternative work. It is far better to learn where your strengths lie rather than be shoe horned into something that doesn’t fit! There are about 50% who after trialling it for a few weeks, ask if they can be rotated elsewhere because at the end of the day working with children who do need that extra support is a demanding task but the other 50% who continue have been able to see that the tiny steps the children make are the equivalent of climbing giant mountains in what they have achieved and feel incredibly grateful to have been on that journey with them. I also have to say that what has impressed me is the extra support those volunteer parents have given – bringing in extra resources they have had at home or even making resources as they have got to know the children better, playing to the children’s interests to improve their learning. So to all the parent volunteers out there, a very big thank you for all that you do.
TpT resource is going to be V is for Verbs (same resource as yesterday but I'm afraid needs must!!)