The first time I agreed to be a room parent I almost immediately regretted it. I had heard the stories of PTA moms gone crazy, the super competitiveness of volunteering in your child’s school, and the overall pettiness. Would it be like that? Had I just signed away hours of my life each week? It turns out that all of the stories are greatly exaggerated.
Volunteering to be room mom was one of the best things I could have done as my daughter was transitioning into kindergarten. I’m now in my second year of being a room parent, and I thought I would share the basics that I’ve picked up along the way. These tips will make room parent volunteering more fun and run more smoothly.
What Does a Room Parent Do?
Your exact job as room parent will vary depending up the school and teacher. Usually the job will involve acting as a liaison between the teacher and parents, you might be expected to join and participate in the building’s PTA, you organize other volunteers in the classroom and donations for various events. Personally, I’ve mostly had to help organize events in my daughter’s classroom such as field day or specific holiday parties and help with teacher presents for the holidays and teacher appreciation week in the spring.
Since a lot of parents work outside of the home, you shouldn’t let this deter you from volunteering! Usually there are a few parents that would love to volunteer as room parent if they have some help. Volunteer for the job and get another parent to help you out. Due to my job I haven’t been able to attend all events in the classroom, but I can be very involved in organizing the volunteers and donations for the event. Having a co-room parent is also a great way to get to know other parents in the classroom.
Set Up a Meeting
As soon as you’ve volunteered to be room parent, it’s best to set up a meeting with the teacher to go over their expectations and what they need help with. I think it is much easier to have this meeting in person with all of the room parents, and be prepared to take notes!
At this meeting be sure to ask:
– On going and immediate needs for donations and volunteers. Do they need someone in the classroom twice a week starting now? What about ongoing donations of basics such as anti-bacterial hand gel?
– Have dates and times been set for the parties yet? When is the first party and what is expected at this party? What has the teacher noticed in the past worked well for that particular party?
The internet makes room parenting so much easier than it used to be! I do almost all of my room parenting on the computer, it’s pretty easy once you have all of your resources in place.
First, you’ll want the email address of every parent in the room. In my school this list is collected by the teacher, but if not you can send a note home with each student asking their parents to email you their preferred email address to stay informed.
Centralize Sign Ups
Next, you’ll want to decide how you’re going to organize your sign ups. You can send out emails detailing how many parents you need to volunteer at the Halloween party and what you need donated, but the back and forth will be very time consuming.
I strongly recommend using an online sign up that parents can use on their own. One option is Sign Up Genius, which will create sign ups individually for each even. I prefer to create a classroom site (for free!) via Shutterfly. You can create a Classroom Share Site that has an area for parents to upload images of each event, a calendar for events, and you can easily create sign ups for parents to volunteer for the parties, donate specific items, or even create a recurring volunteering sign up such as a classroom reader each Thursday at 2:30. The system will email invitations to the parents to join the site when you add their email addresses, and it will remind them of their commitments 3 days in advance.
Pinterest is Your Friend
Gone are the days of polling your friends, it’s easy to find craft and classroom party ideas on Pinterest! I’ve just done quick searches on there for different ideas, but recently I’ve started saving them onto different boards such as this Christmas Classroom Craft and Party Idea Board, you can check my Pinterest for similar boards.
Collect Money Early
You’ll need a small budget for classroom gifts throughout the year. Rather than sending out reminders for each parent to donate $5, it is easier to collect $20 or so at the very beginning of the year. This worked great for our kindergarten class, and was a little less successful for first grade.