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Parent helper at school, frustrated. WWYD?

(24 Posts)
HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Tue 25-Mar-14 17:01:11

I help once a week at my dc's primary school. 90% of the time I am helping children with their maths. It is always the same half-dozen children. They clearly need all the help they can get.

But the trouble is, I'm really not enjoying it.

In previous years I have done different things, helped with reading and literacy skills, social skills, classroom activities, etc. There was more variety in what I did. Seeing the improvement in the children's abilities was so rewarding.

I'm just not getting that 'reward' now.

I'm torn. OTOH I'm a volunteer, I have the right to enjoy what I do; OTOH these children need the help.

WWYD?

LynetteScavo Tue 25-Mar-14 17:06:49

You are not getting the reward because the children aren't making much progress. I think you need to speak to the class teacher, and point this out, suggesting maybe your skills would be better placed elsewhere.

ShatnersBassoon Tue 25-Mar-14 17:07:07

Ask the teacher if you could vary it a bit, maybe an hour with the maths group and an hour doing something less focused.

I go through phases of not enjoying the volunteering I do. Then I love it again although nothing has changed. It's hard to love doing monotonous things with little reward.

JodieGarberJacob Tue 25-Mar-14 17:12:04

Isn't the answer to go and do your stint when they're not doing maths?

cansu Tue 25-Mar-14 17:46:28

I think tbh you need to decide whether this is for you. The teacher knows that at that time she needs help with these children. They might not be the most rewarding children to deal with but that is what is useful at that time. If that doesnt suit you are free to withdraw and say no thanks but I dont really think its down to the school to change things round so you are happier. The point really of being a parent helper is to help, not make more work so the teacher has to consider what will make you happy!

Bonsoir Tue 25-Mar-14 17:48:21

Definitely talk to the teacher - there are many reasons why the DC being helped by you in maths are not making much progress and it is her job to work out why and to do something about it (which might mean assigning you to another task).

thecatfromjapan Tue 25-Mar-14 17:54:03

I'd suggest talking about it and re-arranging to go in when they're not doing maths (as JGJ suggested). I'd definitely discuss it, though. Always good to have information rather than mystery!

Here's a thought, though: do you think that this feeling mught be prompting you to get a more formal role as a T.A., or to get a P.G.C.E.? I suspect it's hard for schools to accommodate a parent helper - they are hard to incorporate into a timetable precisely because they are so free to withdraw their labour (though I'm sure you wouldn't), so you might get more variety and responsibility by seeking to formalise your role ... perhaps.

Ferguson Tue 25-Mar-14 18:31:36

I did five years as parent helper, mainly reading with Yr1 & Yr2 one day a week, but also Friday afternoon gardening with Yr6, and an after-school keyboard club with Yr6. Then in others schools I was employed as a TA for twelve years, before more voluntary work when I retired.

Very often it is the slowest children who need the most support, and I agree it can be frustrating when they don't 'get it'. But any little sign of progress is a reward for the volunteer. I was fortunate that, on occasions, I was with the MOST able, to move them on a little bit more, giving them time that the teacher couldn't spare.

Certainly discuss it with the teacher, TA, SENCo or whoever as appropriate. Maybe one can't expect every moment to be hugely enjoyable for volunteers, and it certainly isn't for teachers, but of course they get paid!

If you have any special skills or relevant experience see if you can do other activities, or work with other age groups. Depending on how much time you have have available, maybe vary the days you help. I think it would be a shame to give it up, and Yes, schools do need additional help.

One of my very first Yr1 'readers' turned up again in another school, seventeen years later, when she was on her final year of Teacher Training. Our roles were reversed: SHE was directing ME in the classroom; she is now a successful teacher!

FrogbyAnotherName Tue 25-Mar-14 18:37:54

The school shouldn't be relying on volunteers to progress the lower-attaining students; those pupils need intervention from the most skilled staff in order to maximise their progress - the latest buzz phrase is ''accelerated progress".

If you can, get hold of a copy of the school development plan and see what it says about Maths attainment and progress. If it's a priority area, and current progress is not as expected, then you can legitimately ask the teacher/maths lead how they believe your support is working towards the SDP targets.

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Tue 25-Mar-14 18:44:34

I don't come during maths. I come in the afternoon, and the children are pulled out of their lessons to get extra maths with me.

I have always come on a regular day, precisely so that the teachers can rely on me and incorporate me into their planning - which they generally do.

While in working with 'my' children, the TAs are often working with other children who need a little extra help. Would it be reasonable to ask if I could sometimes work with these children, while the TA works with the group that has been assigned to me?

JodieGarberJacob Tue 25-Mar-14 18:47:24

From what the op said I'm assuming that the day she goes in it's normally the turn of the low-achieving group to be working on their own while the other staff in the class are working with other groups. Having the op in is a bonus in that that group are not having to work on their own. Under no circumstances will the teacher be relying on the op to 'get results'! She's just being deployed by the teacher in the best way possible.

JodieGarberJacob Tue 25-Mar-14 18:52:43

Just seen your update.

Honestly, the teacher hasn't really got the time to ensure that the task you're given is enjoyable for you. If you don't like it, mention it but don't be surprised if she doesn't come up with something else. If I was the TA, I'd be pretty hacked off that my intervention programme was potentially being hijacked!

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Tue 25-Mar-14 19:30:29

Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. My group of children are the only 'regulars' getting extra help on the afternoons when I come in. On these afternoons TAs work with different children each time. If I finish my group early, and a TA is working with another group, I go over and help. If not, I find something else to do (sharpen pencils!).

Hawkshaw Tue 25-Mar-14 20:26:35

I do what you do (maths with children who are underperforming as a parent helper) and have been finding it enormously rewarding as we are making really good progress together and I have learnt a lot. Is the problem that you are not confident in supporting the maths side of things or just that you're not making much progress? Or that the areas you're working on are things you find a bit dull?

Do you get told what to do with them or can you mix it up a bit and do what you think would be most helpful? With my lot, I have been given more or less free rein in how I tackle it and have put a lot of effort into finding activities that will be genuinely fun for the children to do. That has helped a lot as I do find it gives me a real boost when I go to collect a child and he or she says 'yay!' and really wants to come and work with me. There are tons of resources on the TES site and I also got some really valuable help from asking on here.

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Tue 25-Mar-14 21:18:26

I have no difficulty with maths. I quite enjoy the challenge of having to break things down to incredibly simple, clear steps. This term the teacher has been giving me specific tasks to work on, generally reinforcing current topics. Last term I was given resources and asked to work on more general areas. I also brought in resources of my own.

While I enjoyed last term's freedom, I am perfectly happy to work on specific tasks.

The children are always eager to work with me. Some of them are a real delight to work with - even when they do not progress.

Yes, it's the lack of progress that I find disheartening.

Thewildsofnarnia Tue 25-Mar-14 21:18:36

I think you are perfectly entitled to say you don't want to volunteer with the maths goup anymore and ask for a different role. If they can accommodate you they will, if they can't they won't!

I do however think you would be entirely unreasonable to suggest to swap groups with the TA. That is up to the teacher/TA a to decide. They will have a programme of interventions that children need throughout the whole week. What the TA does on one day with her children may be the building block for the next days learning etc. It many not be appropriate to just swap them over. I would definitely refuse if a volunteer asked this of me and would probably ask the head to find them another class to work in.

teachers are so busy thinking about the needs of a whole class of children and the interventions they need. If a volunteer started putting pressure on me to plan fun tasks for her with particular groups it would make my life more difficult and just wouldn't be worth the bother.

I am sorry if this sounds rude, volunteers are incredibly useful for supporting learning in schools and I am sure you are really valued in the school you volunteer in. I'm just giving another perspective!

Thewildsofnarnia Tue 25-Mar-14 21:22:01

A lot if progress in maths in down to a lack of confidence. Could you suggest working on slightly easier maths work with the group so they can start achieving and feeling success then gradually add in the concepts they find more challenging.
This may be more rewarding?

SafeAsHouses Wed 26-Mar-14 11:58:53

I have to confess, I agree with thewildsofnarnia - whilst I completely appreciate the parent helpers that regularly go into my children's classes at school to help out, I don't think that you can ask a teacher to rearrange groups etc so that you are finding your volunteer work 'more rewarding'. If you don't enjoy it, simply withdraw your efforts. Of course speak to the school or teacher beforehand, and explain your situation, as they may be happy to switch things around if they know that they risk losing your valuable contribution.

However, as Narnia says - trying to 'accomodate' parent helpers so that they are happy and rewarded is sort of like having an extra little person in the class to look after!

I hope you don't find this rude, but I speak from my mum working as a school secretary for many years and she had to deal with various parent helpers complaining to her in the first instance - one complained because she was asked to put newsletters in bags one week (thought it was below her as a volunteer!).

You are probably doing wonders with your group but perhaps can't see tangible improvement?

LynetteScavo Wed 26-Mar-14 20:30:30

I agree with Frog... The children who need theist support should be working with the most qualified person. If these children aren't making progress you and they are just wasting time.

RaisinBoys Wed 26-Mar-14 21:08:25

If I was the parent of one of these children I would be asking why they were not being supported by a trained professional (the teacher ideally or a TA) if they are known to be underachieving in maths.

Too often it seems that those children who need the most help are assigned to volunteers.

Nothing against volunteers but I can see why some teachers don't welcome them, particularly if they have to make sure that they feel rewarded on top of everything else.

Thewildsofnarnia Wed 26-Mar-14 21:16:42

It does not sound like this afternoon session with the OP is instead of regular maths lessons with the teacher or instead of a planned intervention with theTA (the TA has another group).
it reads more as if the op has said they can volunteer one afternoon and the teacher has though, great, This group would benefit from going over the key objectives again in the afternoon. An extra session as opposed to instead of quality teaching during maths.

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Wed 26-Mar-14 21:45:09

I take your point about not making more work for the teacher.

I think I will ask her whether my help is effective for these children. Whether she is happy with what I am doing. I'm very aware that I have no training - just experience as a mother.

I will also mention that I would love to have the opportunity to work with some of the other children or in other subject areas.

HerGraciousMajTheBeardedPotato Wed 26-Mar-14 21:47:06

* op has said they can volunteer one afternoon and the teacher has though, great, This group would benefit from going over the key objectives again in the afternoon. An extra session as opposed to instead of quality teaching during maths.*

Correct.

poopsydaisy Thu 27-Mar-14 07:38:38

I'm sure the teacher would rather have you in the class doing something, than not have you at all. Kids are / can / will benefit from your time in some way, so I'm sure the teacher can find something that works for all. GOod luck and well done - I'm eternally grateful to parent volunteers in my kids school.

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