School volunteering: What I get from giving my time

volunteering at kids school

For several years, I was involved in the PTA and many activities at my boys’ schools.  They’re three school years apart (7, 9, and 13) and attend three different schools, which makes for a lot of running around for mom.

But I’m a busybody and like to know what’s going on. Being involved in the school community and getting to know the principal, teachers, and parents helps me make sure my kids are getting the most of their educational experience. I like the idea of doing my part to help teachers and raise money for extra programs. It was also a nice social outlet when I stopped working full-time and felt isolated outside of an office. The women who run the PTAs in my town are smart, dynamic ladies who get stuff done.

This year I took a step back because I returned to work and wanted to focus on my professional goals. I didn’t think my kids would notice. There were plenty of times I’d be at school and they’d pretend not to see me or acted embarrassed that I was merely existing in their space.

So I was surprised when they expressed disappointment when I wasn’t volunteering for lunch duty and going to meetings. Turns out they liked having me around, even if they were too-cool-at-school to show it.

field trip to United Nations

I promised them I would do one thing in each of their schools this year.  Last week I chaperoned my 7th grader, Jacob’s class trip to the United Nations. Although he ignored me on the bus ride, he acknowledged me a few times on the tour and it was great to share in the interesting and unique experience.  We both learned a lot.

Field trip to United Nations

field trip to United Nations

When 9-year-old Aden’s teacher asked if there were any parents who wanted to come into the class and talk about an area of interest I was tempted, but hesitant. The class was working on writing skills and had a reading blog where they share opinions about common books. A class visit on blogging seemed like a good fit, but I had never spoken publicly to anyone about my new blogging experience. Despite my outgoing and clearly opinionated personality, I  don’t enjoy speaking to large groups.

It makes me very, very nervous.

But Aden really wanted me to do it so how could I refuse? I wrote up a list of topics to discuss and used the classroom smartboard as a visual aid to show the kids my blog.

It must sound ridiculous that I was anxious about speaking to a group of 4th graders and teachers, but it was still 45 people…all staring at me….waiting for me to say smart things. Pressure!

But how can I preach to my kids about facing fears and going out of your comfort zone if I don’t try it myself? So I did it. And those 4th graders were a good crowd. There was no heckling, I remembered almost everything I wanted to say, and they asked great questions.

volunteering at kids school

When it was over, the teachers seemed pleased and I was energized and excited about surviving the experience. The best part is the email I received the next day from Aden’s teacher, Ms. Kasbo:

I just wanted to let you know what a difference you made for the students in writing.  I noticed today during conferencing with them that several students were bringing up your comments and applying them to their own writing pieces, especially when we were speaking about keeping audience in mind when writing.  Just wanted to let you know what a positive effect it had on the students.  Thanks again.

I was happy to get a window into Aden’s world and show him some of what I do (so that’s why you’re always sitting at that computer mom!)  but the fact that I made even a small impact was a huge bonus.

Next month, I’m accompanying Eli on a class trip to see a play. At only 7, he’s elated for me to chaperone and see all his friends. I’ll be thrilled to sit with him on my lap in the dark and remain anonymous.

Each experience has its own rewards.

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2 responses to “School volunteering: What I get from giving my time

  1. Congratulations on a successful speaking engagement and on being a great mom!

    I decided to take a different approach to school involvement. I keep the bar exceptionally low so there are no expectations, and, therefore, no disappointments. So far, it seems to be working well. While it’s true that my kids will probably turn out to be cutters or criminals, I feel good about the consistency I’ve been able to maintain thus far. (do I need to insert a winky emoticon for those who don’t know me?)

  2. Karen Kingsley

    Just wanted to confirm your success in Mrs. Kasbo’s class . Sarah came home all excited from your talk. Thank you!