Help Ease Teachers’ Back-to-School Stress, Volunteer!

By:  Tim Sullivan of PTO Today

Few teachers weather the back-to-school season without some anxiety. A lot goes into setting up classrooms and preparing for their new batch of students. Ever bumped into a teacher while you were out school shopping? Did he or she look a little harried? Chances are, the teacher was picking up last-minute “stuff’’ for the classroom (and using his or her own dollars to pay for the supplies!).

Luckily, there are a bunch of volunteer opportunities for parents that can lighten the load for teachers.

For starters, find out if your school’s parent group has introduced TeacherLists.com to the school, and if it hasn’t, volunteer to lead this effort. TeacherLists.com is a free online service that helps teachers easily create and manage their class supply lists (all the items the kids need) and their wish lists (all those “extras,’’ like paper towels and tissues). Once teachers post these lists online, they (or you) can share the lists easily with parents, who can access the lists whenever they need to, including from a smartphone while shopping.

Even better, by helping your teachers get their wish lists online, you can help your teachers get the help they deserve in stocking the classroom for the year.  Most parents are more than willing to pitch in, but they often don’t know what the teacher needs.  Posting these lists online makes this process simple and straightforward.

The whole idea is to make that connection between teachers and parents easier.

Other volunteer opportunities:

  • Can you make a good quiche? PTOs and PTAs typically organize initiatives to help the teachers as they start the new school year. Often, parent groups will host a welcome back breakfast or lunch. This is a great chance to pitch in by sending in treats or helping to set up or clean up for the event.
  • Get out the dust rag. Ask the school if teachers need help cleaning their classrooms. Often, the school’s cleaning crews handle the big stuff, like the floors, but teachers need help with the small stuff.  In the kindergarten rooms, for instance, the Legos and other manipulative toys need a good dusting or a swipe with a disinfecting wipe.
  • How are you with a Sharpie? You may have noticed that teachers label most everything in the classroom. Offer to help teachers by labeling folders and other classroom materials with the new children’s names.
  • Are you the crafty type? Lots of classrooms are going high-tech, but bulletin boards are still big. Find out if any teachers need help in creating their start-of-the-year bulletin boards.
  • Get the Homeroom Mom job staffed and started early. Often, this position isn’t set until several weeks into the school year, even though some of the busiest weeks of the school year come right up front.
  • Just ask.  Finally, contact the parent group at your school and find out if there are other start-up tasks.  Pitching in, even by doing a small task, will definitely make a difference to the teachers.

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About the Author:

Tim Sullivan is the founder of School Family Media, the parent company of both PTO Today and TeacherLists.com.  Tim is a frequent commentator (and monthly columnist) on parent involvement in schools and the key role played by school PTOs and PTAs.  Sign up for Tim’s weekly involvement tips on the www.ptotoday.com homepage.  Follow Tim on Twitter (@TimPTO) and follow TeacherLists on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teacherlists

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