Not everyone has the time to volunteer at their child’s school, preschool, or daycare more than once or twice a year. But there is really no substitution for actually seeing with your own eyes how your child is doing.
When I volunteer, I feel like I’m on a covert mission. Yes, I want to help, and I do. But really I’m there to observe. Here are some of the things I like to watch for:
- Classroom skills. Is the child raising his hand appropriately? Does he/she know where to find things, like pencil sharpeners? Is he/she familiar with procedures like how to ask for a bathroom pass, and then carry it out correctly? If not, find out how it’s done and make a checklist – or teach it – at home. Follow up with the teacher, if needed.
- Sensory Issues. Is the student comfortable? Are environmental factors like noise, light, and clothing distracting him/her from functioning? If there’s an easy fix, send the teacher an email about that buzzy fluorescent light, better desk placement, or just get rid of that scratchy shirt.
- Social skills. Is the child interacting at all with the other kids? Is it appropriate? Does he/she seem to understand classroom etiquette and courtesy? If not, take notes on what to practice and go over at home.
- Social response. How are the other kids responding to the child? Is there teasing? Is there a sense of equality? Do they accept him/her, view him as an irritant (if so, why), or treat him like a sort of pet?
- What are the other kids like? Can they multi-task? What is their level of functioning? Knowing what is normal for age level can let you know what to work on at home.
- Personal quirks. You may know an instant solution to a personal quirk or problem, and can share it with the teacher later.
- Teacher attitude. Does the teacher seem to understand and try to work with the child, or just get frustrated and glance about for help? Does he/she stay calm and professional, or roll eyes, make comments, and show exasperation to the other children?
Sometimes personal feelings need to be put on hold for this. Learning to be objective (or as objective as possible) will help you find the areas your child needs to work on.
Loved ones are not helped if eyes are closed and ears are shut.
And no, it’s not a betrayal to do this. You can still love and adore someone while acknowledging that, yes, he needs to work on those hand-raising skills.
I can think of nothing more valuable throughout elementary school than my own observations. This was when I could see for myself what was happening, where my son’s skills were, and where the norm was.
After a visit to the school, I’d come home with an up-to-date list of what we needed to work on, whether it was ball skills (everyone likes ball games now, so we’d better work on that!), raising hands, working on coping skills (yes, your pencil broke… now tell me where the pencil sharpener is, so you’ll know next time), courtesy, organization or learning procedures.
Being objective doesn’t mean just seeing the negatives. Sometimes, you’ll see advances (he was so nice to that girl who needed help! And look! He’s raising his hand now!), friendships, kindness, and unsuspected academic abilities. These are good for the spirit, and so fun to share with the family. Plus, your child may not even know that he/she is doing well, and deserves some praise and encouragement.
One further positive about taking the time to volunteer: your child knows you cared enough to be there for him.