I remember when my oldest was starting Kindergarten and how stressful it all felt. Would she make friends or would she hide under a desk and cry? What if other kids bullied her? How do I be a part of her school life when I work and am kind of anti-social (thanks, anxiety!)?
Volunteering in a Big Way
During the first week of school I diligently checked her folder and filled out all of the forms. I joined the classroom Facebook group, I looked through every community flyer. I saw a note about the school’s PTO group and I couldn’t make the meeting but I figured I could still be involved. So I called the school and said just that. Within a half hour, the PTO President had called me and within ten minutes of that phone call, I somehow became Vice President of the PTO. It was fine. I was told I’d have to do almost nothing, just show up to the meetings, because the President does all of it.
Which was true until President moved out of town.
Within the first month of my daughter starting school I became the new PTO President. I had never been to a Harvest Fest, and definitely didn’t know how to organize one. I had no idea how to ask community businesses for donations or how to entice parents to help. I can’t tell you how it all came together in five short weeks, but I can tell you it was completely traumatizing and I will never, ever volunteer at a cake walk again in my life. (I won’t even go into detail on how 25,000 frozen, unwashed milk caps thawed onto our carpet and stunk my house up like rotten milk to the point we had to buy new carpet. My husband was PRETTY angry.)
It’s Worth It
I don’t tell you this to scare you. I tell you this because, despite jumping right into the deep end, the best thing I have ever done was get involved at my kid’s school. Not only did I get to know all of the staff and learn the in’s and out’s of the building, but I got to know all of the kids, too. I have seen students learn to read, explore on field trips, make friends and work through friendship troubles, and really grow into cool little people. I’ve also worked with kids who don’t have some of the same advantages that my kids do. Students come from all kinds of backgrounds and it’s a good reminder as a parent; I can reinforce lessons of empathy and kindness at home. I’ve made a lot of mom friends, which has helped with car pools, kid activities, and babysitting.
Moving On Up
I had many of the same feelings of nervousness when my daughter started middle school, but they don’t have as many volunteer opportunities. (Plus, in middle school, it’s definitely not cool to have mom help out in the class!) If you have older kids, I suggest following the school on Facebook, follow classroom pages, use a school app (like PowerSchool) if the school has it set up, read your emails and newsletters and check their daily announcements. I had heard scary things about the middle school and that really did me a disservice. Thankfully my daughter had a really great experience. She encountered some bullying and friendship drama, but I helped her navigate it because she’ll face that everywhere she goes; that’s part of life. Every transition to a new school takes them farther away from us, but it’s okay. Our job is to guide them to adulthood so we have to practice letting them go.
Watching Them Thrive
This year I have one child in middle school, one in elementary school, one in pre-school, and one at home. I’m torn between three buildings and it’s been a long time since a child started school. I was more nervous sending my preschooler this year than she was! And I realized that even in preschool, as little as they are, we’re preparing them for life without us guiding them every step of the way. I watched her square her shoulders and head into a classroom without me and she never looked back. I used to get sad about this but this year I’m proud. For as much as I doubt my abilities as a mom, the fact that she felt confident enough to take the room by storm on her own must mean I’m doing okay, right?
So as you start off the school year, no matter what building you’re in, consider getting involved. Find out if there is a task you can help with at home if you can’t come in during the day to help out. Attend a PTA/PTO meeting, they are actually pretty fun, I promise! Ask to be a classroom reader or if the classroom needs a parent helper periodically. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, so becoming a part of their school village is just as important!