Are all parents who help in school seen as busybodies by other parents?

(44 Posts)
Fuzzymum1 Wed 21-Nov-12 23:13:18

I don't care if I'm seen as a busybody particularly but I would be interested to know how people view parents who help in school.

I was a parent governor for about 12 years while my older children were at the school, I was also on the PTA during that time and built up good relationships with the teachers and headteacher. I was very careful not to use my position as a governor to further my kids' needs and have several times voted for things that benefit the school as a whole while not being what I would choose for my own child etc.

Since DS3 started at the school I have started going in to read with children in KS1 - I told the head when I stood down from the governing body that I wanted to stay involved and she suggested I go in and read - I did a 2 day training course on a reading intervention program and do that with a couple of children and normal reading with other children. This involves me being in school three afternoons a week. I also do a couple of shifts at the after-school club each week (paid) and emergency cover for the dinnerladies (also paid). I have been asked to accompany various classes on trips too. I see what I do as supporting the school as a whole and have no direct involvement with my own child at school though some of the reading is with children in his class and occasionally his teacher will chat briefly about him while I'm there.

Would I be seen as a busybody? A mug? I get the impression on MN that mums who are in school quite a bit and go on trips etc are not seen in the best light.

didireallysaythat Wed 21-Nov-12 23:24:07

It sounds like you have a very balanced approach and an asset to the school. I would hope mums at the school would see you as such.

But I have to admit that I'm guilty of judging the mums who go on the school trips with their kids, who read with the children every other day in class, help with the dressing before/after sports, always sit in the front row at the weekly school assembly that parents are invited to etc etc. Perhaps it's just a very bad case of jealousy. I was shocked to find several mums at the school gate knew how to get the hood on my son's coat up when I hadn't got a clue (they are midday supervisors). But I find it hard trying to explain to my son that I can't come in and help with sewing in class tomorrow (<12 hours notice), while Harry's mum can (of course!). The "mum has to go to work to earn the pennies that pays for the teachers" doesn't go down well with a 5 year old ! Yeah, I'm probably a couple of shades of greener than I should be. It's been valuable to get your side - I will judge less now on. Thanks !

redskyatnight Thu 22-Nov-12 09:35:13

I also volunteer to read with children at DD's school but wonder how this is perceived. School has a policy of not allowing you to read within your child's year group so I am reading with Reception children while DD is in Y2 (and the school is an infants so she'll be leaving soon). I have no younger children so this is of no direct benefit to me.

I only knew 1 child (sibling of a boy in DD's class) before I started, so I don't have a nosy interest in how they are doing. - I am doing it partly because I have some time at the moment (recently made redundant, am job hunting, so "normally" I can't do things in school time) and partly out of a vague feeling of giving back (lots of volunteers have read and done other things with DD over the years) and also that if what I am doing makes even a small difference the school overall will improve, which has to be a good thing.

UrbanSpaceManBaby Thu 22-Nov-12 10:23:10

I, mentally, split volunteers into two groups.

Type 1
In general likes children. Can be found helping local scout/sport/play group. Helps PTA, reads with an year group that needs the help. Supports the school staff, the decisions they make, understands the context in which they are made and takes the trouble to be informed with current educational trends rather then continuously referring back to their own school days.

OP, I think that sounds like you, thank you, my kids have benefited hugely these volunteers.

Type 2
PFB starts school. Mother volunteers to help, school pays for lots of expensive CRB checks. Initially volunteers to help out 2/3 times a week. Feels aggrieved that mostly is stuffing book bags but has n't troubled to learn correct Phonic sounds. Whilst in classroom is continuously turning round to assess which kids are where in the behavior/ intelligence/ neat hair stakes.

Has a massive spread sheet at home collating child, book band, parental car choice, school coat brand. Calculates who 'socially' would be the best match for PFB. Commences Project 'My New Best Friend', ignores current choice of friends, invites to tea new BF, peppers conversation with encouraging new BF phrases, joins ballet group, etc.

As new friendships settle down and 'pecking order' established drops out of volunteering due to unspecified reasons.

We have lots of these at DDs school. sad, they winge about the teachers, the behavior of other kids, school policies, etc they see this as being 'engaged' but actually are pretty toxic and waste a lot of school resources.

Growlithe Thu 22-Nov-12 10:32:38

Urban you are spot on there. I like to think I'm type 1 as I do some reading in school and really enjoy it, but I know some Type 2s and my DD has been on the receiving end of 'Project Best Friend' - although it took me a while to realise <shudder>.

UrbanSpaceManBaby Thu 22-Nov-12 10:38:28

OP, I think that sounds like you, thank you, my kids have benefited hugely from these volunteers.

Sorry, my kids are great but I don't seriously feel they've inadvertently revealed the meaning of Life, the Universe & Everything over the ORT reading books.

Carry on...

learnandsay Thu 22-Nov-12 10:47:39

Can I join the school as a reading parent in order to surreptitiously dispose of all the ORT readers?

AngelsWithSilverWings Thu 22-Nov-12 10:50:14

I volunteer at my local school and I think the way they recruit volunteers would put off any of the type 2 parents.

You have to apply as you would for a paid job. They take up references with former / current employers in addition to the CRB check. They only accept applications when they have a position to fill.

You have to commit to one regular morning or afternoon per week and agree to be available to help with school trips etc if required.

You are not allowed to help in your own child's class. Sometimes if they are short of volunteers on a school trip they will invite you to join your DC's class but generally you will be escorting a different class.

For the regular morning/afternoon session you are assigned to a particular class for the whole school year. When you arrive for work you are presented with a list of tasks by the teacher.

These can be tasks like mounting artwork, updating topic folders , supervising painting sessions or leading a group in a simple science activity or playing educational board games. ( I help with a Y2 class). I only hear children read if all other tasks have been completed.

I really enjoy it as I'm a SAHM and it's lovely to be back in a workplace again. I volunteered because I wanted to help but I've found it really fulfilling personally and the teacher is so grateful to have me helping.

Cat98 Thu 22-Nov-12 11:32:21

I'd like to help hear readers at ds's school, but I would not like to help in his class, I think it would be unsettling for him and I wouldn't be able to concentrate on what I was doing - I would love to be a fly on the wall as he divulges very little info (reception)!
Therefore when I have more spare time after Xmas I may volunteer but would ask for a different year group.
That said I don't look badly on parent helpers at all, I think it's a great thing to do smile

wheresthebeach Thu 22-Nov-12 11:45:54

I think parents helping in other year groups is great. At DD's school parents help in their childs classroom and I think it encourages those who want to see how their children compare rather than a genuine desire to help.

BlueberryHill Thu 22-Nov-12 12:51:32

I'm interested in how people view parents who help at school, thank you for replies. I help out once a week, (CRB check was free however as I am a volunteer).

Partly, it gets me out of the house (I have 2 under 3 so I have a break helping other peoples children) but I am also considering changing careers to TA / Teacher and I am currently studying for this alongside volunteering. I really enjoy it, its fun, the children are great and I can see just how skilled teachers need to be.

I don't help in DS's class however, I would find it difficult and I think that other parents, quite rightly, might be disconcerted about it.

Labootin Thu 22-Nov-12 12:52:33

Short answer to the OP

Yes

coppertop Thu 22-Nov-12 12:58:18

There are a small group of parents who go into school to listen to children read. I think they're doing a great job, and I've never heard anyone else making negative comments about it.

The school are careful to avoid putting parents in/with their own child's class, so presumably that helps to avoid any accusations of being a busybody or somehow getting preferential treatment.

Onlyaphase Thu 22-Nov-12 13:07:32

See, I don't know where I fit in at school as a parent.

I'm not great with kids so don't help run clubs or interact with the children directly.

I do try and help in other ways - volunteer as a pair of hands at daytime social events standing behind a tea urn, or washing cups. I help (badly) make costumes for the school play. I collate parent information on behalf of the whole school (took weeks). I'm trying to extricate myself from the PTA as I've just realised it isn't a PTA more of a social committee, and this really isn't up my street at all.

I'd hate to be seen as a busybody by the other parents though.

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Thu 22-Nov-12 13:12:03

That would never cross my mind, I find it incredible that some would think so.
<wanders off slightly perplexed>

3bunnies Thu 22-Nov-12 13:17:46

I don't see them as busybodies, and appreciate their contribution, however I don't like it if they then judge me because I'm not as involved, it's not often but sometimes there are comments - not directed at me necessarily, but in general about always the same faces etc.

I do volunteer a little bit (school fair etc) but I also have a toddler at home, run a toddler group and work part time. Maybe in a few years when all at school I will do more, but just because I can't do more at the moment, there is no need to moan if you freely choose to invest your time in the school at the moment.

Can I add a Type 3 - the parent who volunteers as they want to become a lunchtime supervisor then a TA, very motivated, keen to help out lots, and lots of good reasons for becoming a TA, but keeping an eye on their own dc and not wanting to be away from them can be unhealthy.

I think it also depends on the child. Dd1 would quite happily spend all day sat on my lap if I were in her class, dd2 acts as if she wished the floor would open up and swallow her - or preferably me, when I am in school during the day. For those reasons I would never want to be in their classes on a regular basis.

messtins Thu 22-Nov-12 13:22:33

I wouldn't think you are a busybody. My DH is a school govenor (community govenor and done it since before we had DCs, though DS1 is now at the school) and I help out at an after school activity once a week and I've been in a few times to do show and tell related to my job. I'd like to do more, but I am either working or I have DS2 in tow. When he's also at school I'd be glad to do a morning a week or something helping out. The only direct benefit to my DS1 of any of this is he gets an automatic place at the activity, but me helping means they can increase the numbers and offer more places to other kids. If I was helping in school hours I'd be placed with another year group.
Better to be a busybody that someone that stands around gossiping about other parents without actually contributing anything.

If busybody can be read as interested and engaged in learning then so be it.

I volunteer at school to listen to reading, I go to the PTA meetings and take an active interest in the school. Any parent can do it and teachers are wise enough to know the measure of the parents whose help they are accepting.

Butterfly1975 Thu 22-Nov-12 13:39:00

I have the same worries OP.

I volunteer in school doing reading as recently made redundant and genuinely want to fill my time with something useful (and possibly to gain back some confidence as being made redundant is truly a horrible thing sad)

I don't volunteer in either of my kids classes as I don't want to know where they are academically compared to their peers or have to worry about any of my other mum friends asking me about their dc etc.

I don't think our school would manage without parent helpers because a lot of their funding is being cut and they are having to lose TA's so I hope that convinces parents who do see us as busybodies that volunteering is actually a worthwhile cause!

RyleDup Thu 22-Nov-12 13:41:43

Urban, completely spot on.

What urban said.

CocktailQueen Thu 22-Nov-12 13:49:30

No, I don't think so! And for those of you who think they ARE, then how do you think your child would be listened to every week, how do you think they'd do craft activities that are too time consuming for teacher/TA to manage, how do you think they'd manage to take children on school trips?? EVERYONE with children has other demands on thei time - job, home, whatever. Yet some people make time to go in and help at school.

I help in both my dc's classes one afternoon a week hearing readers, and go on school trips when I can. I like the fact that I'm in my dc's classes. I have helped with them the whole way through the school - I get asked to go on trips etc as the children know me and I'm CRB checked so they don;t have to CRB check another parent instead.

I certainly hope people don't think I'm a busybody - though there is always the competitive parent who says they'll volunteeer every week but then only turns up once a term and only then to gauge everyone's reading levels and see who's on top table and moan if their dc is not there
grin

Startail Thu 22-Nov-12 13:55:58

I've done PTA and helped with things because it gets me out the house, I enjoy it, in one small field I have skills to offer and a very practical DH to loan out.

And yes, living out of the village and not being one of the in crowd, it did let me keep an eye on what's going on.
Especially with a dippy dyslexic DD1 who would forget what she was told.

redadmiralsinthegarden Thu 22-Nov-12 14:03:34

i help out at my DSs' school. it wouldn't occur to me that i was being seen as a busybody, tbh! i am a teacher myself, but not currently at work, so i like to be useful.
i help in ds2's class, but only as that's the teacher that wanted the help. Ds2 likes me there, but it doesn't seem to interfere with his work.

MoreBeta Thu 22-Nov-12 14:12:10

Some parent helpers, Governors, PTA are fine people more or less invisibly doing a largely thankless task for no reward.

Some parent helpers, Governors, PTA are busy bodies who want to dominate and control other parents and frankly in my experience can be extremely destructive and generally deeply resented by others who just want to lend a hand.

I have met both types and frankly had a run in a with a few of the second type. Indeed, my observation is they need to go and get a proper job and leave the school alone.

sittinginthesun Thu 22-Nov-12 14:30:26

I wondered about this too, although our school seems to welcome help, and many parents are involved in some way.

I am a governor, and I also help in the school once a week. The helping bit came first (it is a specific task, which I love doing, and didn't initially involve the actual children). The governor bit is more or less invisible, even though that is the most time consuming.

I hope I don't come across as a busybody...

blanksquit Thu 22-Nov-12 17:56:01

I think as long as you're professional and not gossiping about it, not a busybody but an asset to the school.

BuddyTheChristmasElf Thu 22-Nov-12 18:03:08

yes and no

I don't believe that anyone does this for truely altruistic reasons, it serves the person as much as they serve the school. For some people it serves them to fill their time, for some it helps their cv, for some it builds their confidence etc etc, and for some it serves their busy body purpose!

I do voluntary work with schools, and a large percentage of the parents only help out to hang out with their own kids, they don't even NOTICE if one of the other children they're meant to be helping with (small groups, like 5 kids) need something! they just get in the way! every now and one you get a parent helper who genuinely helps out with the whole group, but mostly they're just there for themselves unfortunately. It looks like you have more adults:children on the paperwork, but really they're just 1:1ing their own kids a lot of the time. We did propose that parents go with a group that their child isn't in (so on the same trip as their child., just a few feet away with another group) and there was uproar!

SunflowersSmile Thu 22-Nov-12 18:24:43

I would not want to volunteer in same class as either of my children; would seem uncomfortable.
I do volunteer at their school but in a year they are not in.
I do enjoy it and therefore do get something out of it. I hope the children do too and I am not seen as a nuisance!

RyleDup Thu 22-Nov-12 21:02:05

I wouldn't volunteer in my own childrens class. Don't think it would do dc any favours having me there all day, and it doesn't seem very professional somehow.

AlwaysHoldingOnToStarbug Thu 22-Nov-12 22:39:50

I volunteer and go into DS5's class. I love listening to them read and really enjoyed helping them do an art class and playtime! DS5 can get a bit silly and clingy but I tell him to get on with it and let his teacher deal with him.

I've helped out on trips. I don't care what anyone thinks, I'm a big kids, I'm only going for fun! grin

I'm actually enjoying it all a lot more than I thought I would. I haven't worked since I had ds1 13 years ago, so it's nice to go and do something different and occasionally I get to talk to an adult too!

Fuzzymum1 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:42:29

Sorry I haven't got back to this before now, I'm glad to hear that most people wouldn't see me as a busybody. I started off working with a completely different year group/class to my DS - I'm still working with the same teacher and DS has come up into her class (small school, mixed age classes)

The closest I get to working with DS is saying hello when I arrive in the classroom to take out one of the children or bring them back to the classroom. Occasionally I'm there when it's playtime and he (among a group of his friends) will come and chat to me if I go out into the playground.

FunnysInLaJardin Thu 22-Nov-12 22:45:09

no, I am envious that they have time and don't have to work 9-5. I will never be able to help out at school although I'm sure DS1 would love me to. FWIW all the PTA and helpers seem great at our school

BeerTricksPott3r Thu 22-Nov-12 22:50:01

Yes, we just can't wait to have a nosey in all the bookbags and Judge horrendously at the woeful amount of time you spend reading with your DC.

RyleDup Thu 22-Nov-12 22:54:31

I'm sure you can't beertricks smile.

plainjayne123 Fri 23-Nov-12 12:37:49

I am a reading volunteer, we are put with our child's class as it is thought that is what we would want, fair enough - it's nice to give a wave. I only read with the ones that need a lot of support. If parents want to know how their child is doing compared to rest of class they can ask, seems easier than volunteering every week to help at school!

PickledGerkin Fri 23-Nov-12 13:01:17

Oooh interesting, I help in school and have done for a few years now.

I totally agree with Urban grin and I hate that type of parent. Me personally, I am a SAHM with two children in school. We are categorically not allowed to work in the same year as our own child.

I am happy to do the most boring repetitive tasks to free up the TAs to enable them to help in the classroom. So every week I trim down 90 sheets of homework (A4 is too big for the books) and I glue them in. I help with dispay boards and I also help on the swim run. I don't actually go into a classroom unless needed but we have 1 TA per class.

I hopefully fall into the first category, I let my children choose their friends, I don't care where your child's coat comes from only that it has a name label so when it is kicked across the cloakroom I know which of the 90 pegs it goes on.

I genuinely want to help children, my own confidence was shot as a child so I try to always spin a positive on their work, take time to look at a child when they are talking to me and try to make learning fun.

cat98 we have a few Mums who just come in for 1 hour a couple of times a week to hear children read.

PickledGerkin Fri 23-Nov-12 13:01:58

*display boards not dispay!

plainjayne123 Fri 23-Nov-12 13:13:29

It's daft to say helpers go in to compare child's level to others, if they want to know they ask where they are and which ability table they sit on, and if they don't know this they should

Elibean Fri 23-Nov-12 13:13:36

Not unless you mean bodies who are busy....

Thankfully, not come across too many paranoid, judgemental types at our school - or controlling busybodies. Parents who can help do, parents who can't don't, and staff are hugely grateful for parents who can and do - as are many of the parents who can't.

Fuzzymum, good for you - keep doing what you're doing!

SnowWide Fri 23-Nov-12 13:17:17

See, I really do no understand the need for parents to go into school to "help out". Are classrooms so woefully understaffed that parents have to be roped in?

But I did not go to school in the UK, so not really qualified to comment on the system. When I was little {tedious nostalgia alert} the teachers managed just fine on their own with homework, trips etc. There weren't even TAs around, much less parent helpers swanning around the place.

But as I said, the education system is more hands-on now. None of the "copy down pages 10-16 in your homework books". Still makes me perplexed when I see parents dressed up as Tudor wenches or Julius Caesar lending a hand at the schools.

And worse yet, the judgemental asides, "You are not helping out?? You really should, you know...."

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 14:11:43

I help in school and no one has ever called me a busybody for it.

I used to help in my DCs classes as that was the norm at the previous school, and yes, it did have the side effect of telling me which children were to be avoided when arranging playdates! However, mostly I felt that i was freeing up the teacher from menial tasks so that she could get one with teaching the class, which was going to help my DC.

Then we moved school and I help again but this time, parent helpers are not allowed in their own child's class. I have to say that i think this is a better system, even though it was nice seeing my children in their classroom. The children I help with are lovely and a joy to be around. I just do what the teacher tells me to do and I try to be proactive so that directing me doesn't end up being an extra task for the teacher.

It never occurred to me that someone would think badly of me for doing this, but If someone does think badly of me, then all I can say is that its their problem that they are so bitter.

seeker Fri 23-Nov-12 14:14:52

Only by stupid other parents.

owlelf Fri 23-Nov-12 19:29:56

I help at DC school one morning a week, on my day off. I asked DS' teacher if there was anything I could do to help and she practically bit my arm off.

I read with Children who aren't read with at home, do some very basic phonics and numeracy with children who need some additional help (I have been trained for this and know in an ideal world it would be done by a TA but school budgets have been cut for this), supervise the 'friendship corner' at break time, and do whatever else I'm asked to do.

I do it because I genuinely want to help. I'm not interested in comparisons or being nosey. I'm pretty sure that DS's teacher has more time to concentrate on teaching because she has some parent volunteers to help out.

I never ever repeat anything outside of school, nor would I offer any opinions while volunteering.

I'm a bit hmm that so many people would jump to the conclusion that I'm a busybody. I'm pretty sure that if that was the case DS' teacher would be well aware if it and wouldn't want me in her classroom.

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