A conversation after swimming today really hit my “Kennedy” nerve. I have always been someone who gets involved and volunteers. From as young as I can remember I have been a volunteer. The city birthday celebration at the lakefront, the drop in center for Hispanic women, and once I had children, the PTA, and etc. My list of volunteer activities is long and storied. So, I always find it difficult to understand how people can NOT get involved. Really? How do they do it? It feels impossible for me not to, almost at a cellular level. Which is why I sometimes relate my need to volunteer as a Kennedy (Yes, I think I had heard some years back that I have some distant skinny, little thread connecting me to the “…ask what you can do for your country” * Kennedy’s) gene thing.

So, when my swimming friend mentioned she and her husband attended their children’s PTA-sponsored Back to School Night. I was listening. She said her husband questioned the budget. In front of everyone. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone do that in all my years of PTA involvement. But, she argued, he was right to do it. Yes, of course he can. But, did he then offer to join the Executive Committee to offer his obvious budget/treasurer expertise? No, he did not. He expressed shock and dismay that there were not any men “in that PTA, and why aren’t THEY (the female PTA volunteers) doing more outreach to get men involved.” This struck a nerve with me because, again, in all my years of being involved, PTAs always want and welcome Dad participation. So, being rather passionate about volunteering in general and in schools, in particular, I thought I would use my blog entry for today to list a few ways I know of for parents to get involved in their child’s school or team.

The best way to find out what the needs are is to start by attending your child’s Back to School Night (or team’s organizational meeting). You will have a chance to see the people who your child spends the day with and meet some folks who are already volunteering in the school. You will have a chance to meet your child’s teacher or teachers. When you do, shake their hand and introduce yourself as your child’s parent. Ask if the teacher needs help in the classroom or with something you can do from home, if that works better with your schedule. Listen to what the people who are already volunteering are saying. It is a rare group that doesn’t have some hole to fill. If you have a skill, offer it to the group. People who don’t volunteer are often quick to point out how busy they are. We know. Volunteers are the busiest people I know. Some of the most fun ways to volunteer are at once or twice a year activities. For example, field day, fall fests, holiday shoppes, field trips, and the book fair are all great opportunities in elementary schools; dances, post prom parties, concessions stands, are good choices in middle and high schools. And, teams of all kinds always need parent support to run and thrive. In addition, the explosion of social media has lead to another area of need in schools and teams: that of social media savvy parents to pick up where paper left off and inform and communicate with parents/students/players and, etc. what is going on either in school or with the team. There seems to me to be no end to the number of opportunities out there for parents, even busy or “important” ones, to try. Do it! Volunteering changes lives and your child is worth it!

* This is a from John F. Kennedy’s January 20, 1961 Inaugural Address.


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