Room parents (a.k.a., room moms, classroom aides, volunteer coordinators) are the magic ingredient of every elementary school year. Without these critical volunteers helping our teachers, planning celebrations and communicating with parents in the classroom, school would be a much duller and less organized place.
And if that room mom is about to be you (and it looks like it is since you're reading this article!)–congrats for stepping up! Use our handy checklist to get organized and make it a memorable year for all, especially the kids.
Capture all the details
Schedule a teacher meeting at the start of the year to learn about his/her needs, preferences and expectations:
Ongoing volunteer support needs: table-time helpers, weekly readers, science lab & materials prep, and recess supervisors
Classroom activity dates and support needs: field trips, career day, open-house, assemblies
Contact information: How does the teacher prefer to be contacted by you & by the other class parents? What are school policies for gathering and releasing parent contact information?
Teacher’s “favorites”: Find out what (s)he likes as a gift guide for parents and thinking ahead toTeacher Appreciation Week: favorite meal, beverage, restaurant, store, treat, charity, sports team, hobbies, etc.
Build an annual calendar of all events and volunteer needs
Publish it on multiple channels so all parents see it (the class website, a paper handout, via email, on online volunteer calendars). Tip: Online signup sheets from VolunteerSpot.com make it easy for parents to choose when and how to help–with a click from their smartphones or computer. Automated reminders keep parents on track and personal assignments can be downloaded to a parent’s Cozi calendar.
Reach out and start organizing
Welcome Letter: Send parents a welcome letter including your contact information, important dates, and instructions about how to sign up to help. (Here is a sample letter to help you get started.) This is also a great opportunity to ask parents if they have special interests or talents they would like to share with the class (e.g. gardening, music, photography, cultural experiences).
Get Support Early: Ask parents to sign up to help at the beginning of the school year for activities throughout the year. Offer options so working parents or those with young children can pitch in from home (e.g. sending snacks or treats, preparing and purchasing supplies).
Budget: If there is a teacher holiday gift, birthday gift, or party funds needed, create a budget and alert parents at the beginning of the year. Be clear what is optional (teacher gift money) and what is mandatory (party supply and field trip fees).
Delegate: Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do it all yourself. Be specific about what jobs need doing and when, and invite other parents to participate in organizing parties and activities. Do identify your most active volunteers and call on them when you are short – and show your appreciation! They’ll keep coming!
Be professional and cautious to NEVER release contact information without permission or share sensitive information you may be privy to as a room parent.
Be Proud. You’re a great role model for all the children!
Discuss contact preferences for teacher and parents
Find out teacher favorites
Decide on classroom party dates and plans
BUILD A CALENDAR OF EVENTS AND VOLUNTEER NEEDS
Publish on multiple channels
Send parents a welcome letter
Ask parents to sign up early in the school year
Create and communicate the budget, if applicable
Invite parents to participate throughout the year
Be professional and cautious with sensitive information
Karen Bantuveris is the founder & CEO of VolunteerSpot, a time and sanity-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders by making it easier get involved. Karen lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter and husband. @VolunteerSpot@VSpotMom