With or Without You or A Few Thoughts about Volunteering at School


In principle,  volunteering at school seems like a noble idea, indeed. Schools promote it as a way of getting families on board and saving the money schools don’t have. Instead of paying for classroom aids, they can afford more qualified educators and more specialized programs.  Nothing’s wrong with that. But when I see that some parents virtually live at school, whole families go on field trips and talent shows, that in my schools were organized by creative students, are taken care of by their creatively unfulfilled parents, I start wondering if something hasn’t been lost in translation.   Is it a public school or a preschool co-op? Regardless of financial benefits for the school, how beneficial is this strong parental involvement for the children?

As one of the room parents in my son’s class put it, she makes every effort to volunteer at school, because even if other kids might not care, her children appreciate it. That’s one way of looking at it.  In my opinion, it is more about  balanced parenting versus being overly protective. The first cherishes independence, and the latter fosters neediness. But what do I know? My child apparently doesn’t care. Or does he? It wasn’t long before he started bugging me to come to school as well.   I was curious so why not?  I can’t say my help was crucial, but I had a good time peeking into my son’s school day. More importantly, I was glad to confirm that there is nothing to worry about. In other words, dear fellow parents and permanent volunteers, you can relax now. The teachers know what they are doing and the students are having a great time. Actually, according to some parents, it is their presence in the classroom that makes things worse. Kids are more clingy and act out more. What’s even more harmful is the parents’ intrusive participation during recess. Kids can sort things out among themselves much better than we give them credit for. They don’t need our constant assistance, even if we like to pretend otherwise. Still, not everyone is convinced. Like the mom, who I happened to hear venting about the poor field trip planning. Both of her sons had the trips on the same day. How was she supposed to participate in both? As she was complaining, I was really happy for her. The “cruel” circumstances were helping her to take a healthy distance to her children’s well-being. Little did I know. The resourceful mom found a way to get her way. It was time to engage the dad in the chaperoning duties. And he wasn’t alone. Looking at the sheer number of parents  going on the trip, I was kind of confused. Firstly, don’t these parents  have to go to work? And secondly, isn’t the whole idea of field trips to give children an opportunity to do things WITHOUT their parents? It’s a valuable survival lesson, so why should we deprive our children of it?   Unless survival lessons are a part of some old-fashioned curriculum and today’s children’s job is just to excel at everything.  Why worry about the rest, right? Today’s parent is there to take care of it. Gladly.

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