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Can you volunteer in schools- but not to help with reading?

(26 Posts)
JustJazz Mon 17-Mar-14 13:04:47

Now my DD has settled well into school life, I'd like to volunteer to help at the school. I know some parents go in to help with reading, but I'm a bit nervous about doing this. So, is there anything else that schools need help with? TIA

columngollum Mon 17-Mar-14 13:14:43

Lunchtime supervision, walking children to and from school, supervising children on school trips, coaching in music or a foreign language, setting up the cake stall for the PTA, clearing up after the school disco...

feelingdizzy Mon 17-Mar-14 13:19:45

I'm a teacher I would love extra hands for art and drama, including school plays, making scenery, selling tickets. Extra hands on school trips or even when we are doing outside learning would be great.
If you have any particular interest or skill , anything from knitting to aeronautics I would be interested.

JustJazz Mon 17-Mar-14 13:23:47

Thanks. They have plenty of lunchtime supervisors, not sure why they'd need help with walking children to & from school?. I've helped with all the PTA events so far (setting up & clearing up).

I was thinking admin/ craft things on a fairly regular basis.

Seeline Mon 17-Mar-14 13:29:46

I've helped with reading, sewing, cooking, accompanied on school trips and in school for workshops etc.
Sometimes there might be a specific topic that they are covering that you might have a special interest/skill that might be relevant. I have never worried about offering any help - teachers can always say no thanks!

JustJazz Mon 17-Mar-14 13:31:09

Thanks feelingdizzy- just wanted to be sure there would be someone glad of help & not be laughed at! My background is in financial services & IT, so maybe not the best fit for primary school but I know how to weed a veggie patch, set out craft materials etc.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Mon 17-Mar-14 13:38:11

Can I ask what it is about reading that worries you? I've been helping out at a school for about 8 mths and helping with reading is a common request from teachers. It only happens in the younger classes and is generally you listening to a group each take a page/line as you work through their reading book. It's really not too taxing tbh.

17leftfeet Mon 17-Mar-14 13:39:15

The art lessons at dd's school are taken by a HLTA during ppa time and they do like volunteers in to help out

JustJazz Mon 17-Mar-14 13:48:19

Tension- it's not that I worry it'll be taxing, just that my DD is an excellent, 'very determined to learn more' kind of reader. I'm worried that if I was with a DC who struggled that I'd either be a total pushover & help too much or be too harsh. Reading is SO important that I just don't feel qualified.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Mon 17-Mar-14 14:05:32

The only thing I would say is you might well find yourself given tasks involved in helping with the less able/need more support children because teachers can't usually give those DC the individual help/attention needed all the time and will give helpers tasks that involve those children because it frees them up to do more general lesson stuff. If that worries you then you'd probably need to address that before going into the classroom.

It does all depend on the teacher and the needs of their class. In my experience you don't usually get to offer your own skills/abilities but are asked to do tasks needed in the class setting. At least to begin with anyway. I think it might not help/reflect well if you say you won't do x, but offer to do y instead. The teachers have set lessons they need to carry out and are less likely to have you back in their class if you don't want to do what they need at the time. I guess my advice is to not go in with certain tasks you won't do, but to be open to what is asked of you so you can develop a relationship with the teacher and then talk up what else you can offer/have skills in.

JustJazz Mon 17-Mar-14 14:21:58

Thanks- that's useful advice tension. My Dh says I'm being hard on myself- in that I wouldn't mind doing anything (even cleaning the loos). I just want to make sure I help, rather than hinder. I have a friend who has a DC with special needs (& selective mutism) and it absolutely makes my day when she feels happy to talk to me, so please don't think I wouldn't want to help out with less able/ need more support children- more that I don't know if I would be good enough.

ilovepowerhoop Mon 17-Mar-14 14:27:57

our school doesnt really have parents in the classroom but I help out with going on school trips if they need extra adults

Seeline Mon 17-Mar-14 14:28:44

When I used to help with reading I was given specific things to do. Only particular children were given to me (I sensed not those who were having real problems, but those that just needed extra practice and above). The children had particular books to read, and I had to fill in a record for each child I had listened to. Sometimes I had a group of similar abilities, and we just went round doing a page each. Sometimes I just read to a group of children and 'shared' the book with them - ie discussing pictures etc. I am sure a teacher would not give an untrained parent a child who needed specialist help.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Mon 17-Mar-14 14:30:25

Sorry I didn't mean to imply you wouldn't want to work with those children. Tbh I'm having a 'period of reflection' just now over my volunteering and totally get the 'not wanting to be a hinderance' bit. I think your (general) idea if what it will be like can be very different from the reality. I had one teacher have me sharpen pencils and glue paper into home work jotters for an hour because it needs doing but wasn't what I hoped I'd be dealing with!

noramum Mon 17-Mar-14 16:05:45

We do have parent readers but they are parent's of DD's classmates, for reading you don't work in your child's class.

Our school normally needs parents for allotment time and cooking.

Walking to-and-from school is required when they go somewhere local, in our case they visited some churches and learned about baptism. You can't have 60 children walking for 30 minutes each way with just 4 adults.

School trips - there it depends on the method of transport, public transport means 2 children-per-adult, coach is a lot less.

Why don't you just ask the school?

QuiteQuietly Mon 17-Mar-14 16:46:29

I don't "do" reading, as I don't feel qualified to help with sounding out - neither of mine have ever done it. Instead I do photocopying, cutting things out, laminating, repairing reading books, craft prep. and things like that. I always have plenty to do and everyone seems pleased to have someone doing it. Sometimes I help with small group work or one-to-one if needed. There is generally plenty to do that doesn't involve listening to reading.

sinclair Mon 17-Mar-14 19:07:46

with your professional background you may be really useful as a School Governor - lots of chances to get involved with the kids other than the reading schemes! Schools I know would bite off the hand of someone with a background in IT and anyone who can navigate a spreadsheet and balance sheet equally welcome. There are lots of threads on here about what is involved if you think you might be interested.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 19:10:37

We are always on the lookout for volunteers to help with things like cooking - usually small groups of 4-6 children at a time in our little kitchen.

General volunteerng in school can be arranged, though often depends on the school and how they are organised.

kilmuir Mon 17-Mar-14 19:32:11

I would go and offer yourself for a few hours a week. Mention you enjoy crafts etc

ICantFindAFreeNickName Mon 17-Mar-14 20:06:20

With your skills you, you may be a great help in the office (if your school has office volunteers).

Ferguson Mon 17-Mar-14 20:21:58

I started as a parent helper, mainly supporting 'readers'. One of my first Yr1 girls turned up again seventeen years later, in another school, on her final year of Teacher Training; roles were reversed, as SHE needed to direct ME in the classroom!

I became a TA for twelve years, plus ten or so voluntary years.

Your IT (ICT in school) experience would be valuable in classes I would have thought, as that is one area where some teachers really struggle. Having been in schools for twenty-five years or so, I saw ICT almost from its beginnings, with BBC Micro, Acorn A3000, A5000, RiscPC etc, and Acorns are still my favourite machine. Then PCs came in, networks, 'whiteboards' etc (Where will it all end!)

The best thing I ever did was during a spell of voluntary help, with a Yr1 Down's boy, who had no language, and couldn't really participate in normal lessons. He loved watching children using the computers, but his motor skills were so poor he couldn't use a keyboard or mouse. I found a web site of disabled activities, that only needed him to press the space-bar as a 'switch', which he could manage. Soon he was launching rockets, jumping chasms, making patterns and many other things, and his little face showed such delight that for the first time HE was in control of the computer!

And please don't think you might not 'be good enough'! Supporting reading doesn't need special skills, just a sympathetic approach to lead the child forward. Talking about books, content etc and inviting the child's ideas is also valuable. Once another Yr1 girl, to whom I must have told some nugget of information that surprised her said, "Sir, do you know EVERYTHING!"

MidniteScribbler Mon 17-Mar-14 22:21:20

I love parent helpers and try to integrate them in things where their skills can be used if possible, although sometimes I just need someone to do 'whatever' because that is what is needed at the time. Setting up activities, covering books, packing things away all leave me lots more time to actually do the important part of my job, which is work with the children. I'm also quite happy to "use" a parent with specific knowledge. If you can sew, then I've got plenty for you! Parents who like to cook are great on cooking mornings and bring their own skills to the classroom. Green thumbs always welcome to apply to help us out in the vege patch. Our school has a lot of cultural backgrounds, and a parent willing to come in and help out on a session from their own background, whether it be sharing stories/cooking/dance/etc.

Delphiniumsblue Mon 17-Mar-14 22:25:14

Just go in and ask, I am sure they will be only too pleased.

IDugUpADiamond Tue 18-Mar-14 06:38:01

I have been a parent helper for many many years and always requested that I wasn't made to read to the children as English is not my first language. I have created craft resources, organised craft sessions, filled the children's scrapbooks with their photos and worksheets, stuck homework to their home learning books, assisted with IT lessons, helped little ones to get changed for ballet/football clubs, photocopied resources, sharpened pencils, washed paint off tables, brushes, etc, cut out shapes out of foam or card stock for an activity.... And after I gained some confidence, I started listening to the kids read and they LOVED it!!!smile

sittingathomewithacold Tue 18-Mar-14 13:19:24

Just go and ask at the office. I help out (not reading, but a more specific role), and we have helpers for art and crafts, changing library books, cooking etc. Three helpers were subsequently taken on as assistants helping with children who need one to on time in class, and one of these is now a TA and is on a training course etc.

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