Since I'm a stay-at-home parent, I'm lucky enough to have enough free time on my hands (or to be more precise, the ability to juggle my schedule around) to spend time volunteering at the kids' school. I don't have quite the organizational skills or the energy or the drive to take on any major leadership roles in our school's PTA; I prefer to be active in a supporting role, lending a hand at PTA functions or managing tshirt sales or organizing smaller events like ice skating parties.
But the volunteering I enjoy most involves getting down and dirty in the classroom with my kids and their classmates. I like signing up to help with art class, math labs, recess and library. I'm a room parent who helps organize class parties and collect money for teachers' gifts and recruit other volunteers. And when time permits, I'm a driver and chaperone on field trips.
It's a win-win situation for everyone involved: the teachers get the extra hands they so desperately need, which frees them up to give more one-on-one attention to their students. But the biggest winner is probably yours truly. Here are just some of the ways I benefit from the volunteering that I do at school:
* It gains me lots of points with my kids. They love the attention I give them in class, and they just about burst with pride whenever they see me there. I don't know how long it will be before they they start pretending they don't know me, but for now I'm enjoying them enjoying me.
* I get a glimpse of my kids' lives in a universe that doesn't revolve around me. I get to see my kids interact with their teacher and their classmates, and I get to check on them and make sure they're thriving and learning (the control freak in me really likes that).
* I get to know my kids' teachers a little bit better. After all, they are my kids' mom-away-from-home. Their teachers are molding my kids' little minds as much as I am, so I want to establish a good relationship with them.
* I get to know my kids' friends. I get to know their names, so when 3Po comes home with stories of playing with Evan and sitting at Anna's table, I know who they're talking about. And I get to know their personalities -- who are the quiet kids, who are the live wires, and who are the ones that 3Po really, really likes playing with.
* My kids' friends get to know me. After spending so much time breaking up fights, opening their yogurt tubes, admiring their artwork, checking out their library books, they become comfortable, even affectionate with me. There's nothing nicer than having one of their friends run to me and say, "I know you! You're Jammy's mom!".
Volunteering in class is not all sweetness and light. Some days I find myself on a blogging roll, and I hate to break the momentum and head to school for volunteer duty. Some days I just don't feel like doing it, and I feel like a naughty kid who wants to play hooky. Being in charge of five loud, hyper-excited kids (four of whom aren't related to me) on a field trip is guaranteed to raise anyone's stress levels, and when I'm on playground duty I find myself checking the time every five minutes, hoping the teacher rings the bell so I don't have to ask yet another kid to walk, not run. But, as Martha Stewart would say, it's such a Good Thing that you can bet you're going to find my name on that volunteer sign up sheet year after year.
This post was inspired by the Yahoo Motherboard's topic of the month, Volunteerism. Click here to read more posts by the other amazing Yahoo Moms.