Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm on a Roll -- Why Stop Now??

All right. I've had a bit of frustration building the last few days. Weeks. Months. Years. Might as well just set it all free. Right Here. Right Now.

Here's the scoop. For the last two years I haven't been able to volunteer much up at school. Abbie's Kindergarten year was spent moving our family from location to location -- finally ending up here right after school got out.

Last year, Kait was in preschool at the Met -- a 25 minute drive away. The time I spent going back and forth five days a week really ate up most of my free time. But I still managed to work on Yearbook, so I did play volunteer role at the school.

I understand busy. I understand how commitments get in the way of volunteerism. I understand how a job can completely take over your life.

But here's the deal. This year, I've spent a LOT of time in the kids' school. As a parent, as a guest teacher, as a volunteer. I've had a first-hand look at how important it is for parents to be active volunteers in their children's schools. And I'm beginning to think that private schools that actually require parents to volunteer have the right idea.

As I've spent day after day bouncing from classroom to classroom, I've seen how a few regular parent volunteers can make a HUGE difference in the education of all the kids in the classroom. Nowhere does this shine as brightly as in Kindergarten. In Kinder, you have kids who don't even possess the basic social skills needed to function in that setting thrown in with kids who are already working on a first-grade level. And there's absolutely every level in between.

There is no easy solution for our educational system. As a parent, I find it very frustrating at times. Kaitlyn went into Kinder already reading some. She could count to 1000 and was absolutely ready. Other children come in not knowing their colors or numbers or even their letters.

And God bless the Teachers who have to take these rooms full of children who are on a bajillion different levels and somehow channel that into a cohesive group where everyone learns. I get the "No Child Left Behind" philosophy. And it's a good one. Let's prepare these kids for what lies ahead. But we also need a "No Child Slowed Down" program for the kids who are ready for more. Teachers have to spend so much time bringing the low-performing students up, and dealing with all the emotionally messed-up stuff, that it's difficult to address the needs of the higher-performing students.

And that's where parent volunteers come in. With a healthy group of parent volunteers, the dynamic totally shifts. It doesn't have to be a huge time commitment. You don't have to have a teaching degree. Simply come into the classroom an hour or two a week and read with these kiddos. They just need to practice. If you do that, it gives the teacher a bit of extra time to spend with other students. Or come in and read with the good readers who thrive with that kind of attention as well.

Our schools absolutely cannot excel without parent volunteers. Funding has been cut while expectations have sky-rocketed. Teachers are expected to fill so many roles in your children's lives. They need help. This is not day-care. This is not the place to drop your kids off at the door and pick them up at 6:00. If you have kids in school, you should find a way to be in that school. Teachers shouldn't have to beg for help from parents. You should be so freaking thankful that these people are educating the most precious gifts God has given you, that you're tripping over yourselves to get in there and help.

I especially think that's the case if your child is one of those high-maintenance kids. You know your child. If they're the student that the teacher is constantly having to deal with -- the one that takes all the attention away from the other kids, the least you can do is give some of that back by volunteering. Read with the other students. Read on parent reader day. Sharpen pencils. Whatever it takes.


Kayren said...

well said my friend- as one who has a child who went fully prepared and one who needs lots of help - I can understand the frustration from both directions. Mason needs to have more challenges and Cooper still isn't confident enough and is not really reading. Will he have to repeat - I don't know but this group learning thing is for the birds.

TexPatriate said...

The educational system is never going to be as cut and dried as "go volunteer at your school because the kids need help".

I can think of my childhood and a lot of the kiddos that needed the most help in school had parents who were already overwhelmed with the kids that they had and the situations that they were in. There would have been NO WAY that some of the parents could have gotten to school, much less volunteered, much less been able to read on the same level themselves. (If you think about it, you'll figure out who I'm thinking about, I'm sure.)

I don't think it is all a question of "if you manage to volunteer at your child's school, then everyone else should be able to" -- especially in today's economic climate. Additionally, there are parents out there that do. not. care. more about their children than they care about themselves. This is not simply endemic to the educational realm -- it's systemic to our society.

I understand your frustration and I wish it was this simple, but. . . it's just not.

Call me to argue. =D

D'Lyn said...

That's the problem. When you get overwhelmed by the big picture, you can't see the little one.

This is one small thing that anyone can do to make a HUGE difference. And yes, ANYONE can do it. It's just a matter of choice.

People don't seem to have a problem picking their kids up early on a Friday to go on a trip. No one seems to have trouble pulling their kids out of school for a week to go to Disney World.

It's all about priorities.

TexPatriate said...

I agree that it is all about priorities. Sometimes those priorities include a second job in order to put food on the table for those children -- and that just does not leave extra time to volunteer.

I still maintain that you are seeing this issue as a matter of "choice" instead of seeing that there are parents who do not have the luxury of the choices that you are able to make -- and I'm not sure that makes them bad parents.

Having clarified my position, I will stipulate that there are a great number of folks who choose convenience over parental duties -- and I do think those folks are selling their kids short. Additionally, they are making it more difficult for the parents that choose to be much more engaged in their childrens' lives.